Nationals' bats shut down by Giants lefty

Nationals' bats shut down by Giants lefty

Nationals' bats shut down by Giants lefty
SAN FRANCISCO -- Davey Johnson felt the Nationals had a chance to win Tuesday night had they taken a one-run deficit into the ninth inning. He thought the Giants would bring in their closer, which meant the Nats would finally get a chance against someone other than Madison Bumgarner.

Washington never got that chance.

San Francisco broke out for four runs in the eighth inning to pad its one-run lead, and Washington couldn't muster more than one run against Bumgarner a night after setting AT&T Park records with a 14-run, 21-hit outburst. The Nationals' 6-1 loss, combined with the Braves' win over the Padres, brought their National League East lead back down to 4 1/2 games.

Bumgarner shut down the Nationals in his complete-game gem, the second of his career, giving up only five hits and striking out six with just one walk. There was an obvious disparity between the way the Nats hit Monday night and the way they couldn't hit Tuesday, but there was an equally large gap between Bumgarner's performance this time around compared to his five-inning, seven-run outing in Nationals Park on July 4.

"I knew, especially after what they did to me at their place and what they did last night, I was going to come in here and make sure I had complete focus and put the ball where it needed to go," Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner faced the minimum in the first three innings, then did so again in the fifth and eighth. He put two runners on in the fourth, then retired the heart of Washington's lineup in order, perhaps Washington's best chance to do some damage.

"He's a good pitcher. He's known for being a quality pitcher," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Not surprising that he can have a game like that."

Werth scored the only run Bumgarner allowed, drilling a leadoff triple to right-center field in the seventh and coming home on an infield single by Adam LaRoche. But Bumgarner quickly retired the next three batters to prevent Washington from further chipping into San Francisco's lead.

"I know what those hitters are up against when they're facing him," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said. "Standing out there, I'm kind of laughing, because I know what they're dealing with."

Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, was not at the top of his game. He admitted he didn't have his best stuff, felt he missed on several pitches and wasn't able to get the Giants to chase his slider. More than anything, he was disappointed he couldn't last more than 5 2/3 innings. In all, the right-hander allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out four. His ERA ticked up to 2.38, still the best in the NL.

"I'd like to at least go six or into the seventh, but they're a good hitting team," Zimmermann said. "They battled pretty well tonight. I just didn't have the best stuff."

The Giants got to Zimmermann first, putting up one run in the second when Brandon Belt doubled home Pence. Zimmermann didn't let another runner get past first base until the fifth, but Belt did the damage for San Francisco again in the sixth.

Zimmermann walked Pablo Sandoval with one out, Pence singled and Belt crushed a first-pitch fastball off Zimmermann, missing a homer to right field by mere inches to score Sandoval. That brought an end to Zimmermann's night, just the second time this season he's failed to pitch six full innings.

"It was a fastball I was trying to go in and jam him. I just left it right over the middle," Zimmermann said. "Anyone could've hit that pitch.

"We've been coming back all year, and I wish I would've put up a zero there in the sixth. Unfortunately they got another run. That would've been a whole different ballgame, 1-1 going into the seventh, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Despite their struggles against Bumgarner and a one-run deficit, Johnson still believed his club had a good chance to win when he sent out Drew Storen to pitch the eighth. Things quickly unraveled, as Storen surrendered four runs on three hits and a walk.

"I just fell behind in the count, tried to make the adjustments and ground balls found the holes," Storen said. "You can't fall behind these guys."

The Nationals never got a chance to mount a comeback in the ninth. After the Giants sent nine hitters to the plate in the eighth, Bumgarner returned to the mound, allowing only a walk to Werth as he pitched one more shutdown inning.

"I really felt that we were going to win that ballgame if we just hold them in the eighth," Johnson said. "I liked the way we set up against their bullpen. ... They would've [brought in their closer], and we probably would've had a better chance.

"They swung the bats good. I think they probably had a little vengeance on us after whooping up on them last night."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.