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Ninth-inning rally not enough after a rare pitching meltdown

The Giants began the ninth down by seven, but they still managed to bring the tying run to the plate.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Trevor Gott’s long-awaited return to Washington was foiled
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After the Giants scored seven runs in the game Stephen Strasburg started, I thought they had an excellent chance to win the series. The Nationals had their worst starter going tonight and their bullpen is a dumpster fire. Jeff Samardzija was coming off his best start in two years. The time was right to score a bunch of runs and let the excellent pitching keep on dismantling opposing hitters.

That, uh, didn’t happen. The Giants managed six runs, including four in the ninth on homers from Gerardo Parra and Steven Duggar. But it turns out the pitching staff is mortal. This is the first time this season the Giants have scored more than six runs and lost.

The Giants gave up nine runs, which is the most they’ve allowed this season. The previous high was six, which they allowed twice. Samardzija gave up four including two homers in the first. Travis Bergen gave up two homers himself in the seventh, and now his ERA looks like the ERA of a Nationals reliever.

Travis Bergen is probably still good, though. Pitchers are allowed to have a meltdown every once in a while.

Trevor Gott even struggled as he walked a batter, hit a batter, and gave up a base hit in 1+ innings. I originally planned to dedicate a paragraph to how silly it was that the Nationals bullpen is a big ole stinking pot of doo-doo and they just gave the Giants Trevor Gott. It’s probably still true that the Nationals really screwed up with Gott, but now seems like an inappropriate time to gloat.

The Giants bullpen wasn’t going to have an ERA under 2.00 forever. Still, it would have been cool if they incrementally let it slip away instead of blowing it all at once.

In Samardzija’s last outing, he held the Rockies scoreless after seven innings. In the recap of that game, I remarked that while he doesn’t throw 95 MPH fastballs anymore, maybe he doesn’t have to. I am less convinced of that now.

It didn’t help that Samardzija had no idea where the ball was going, but the Nationals were all over his two-seamer. The homers from Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick both came on two-seamers. Meanwhile, his four-seam fastball was nowhere to be found until the fourth.

Unless it was just the Rockies being bad, Samardzija has proven he can succeed without throwing in the mid-nineties. For all his issues tonight, he struck out Anthony Rendon twice. Without the command, though, Samardzija’s in trouble. If he were still throwing 95, he wouldn’t need pinpoint accuracy. Now, it’s hit the glove or die.

I suppose it’s no surprise that Shark struggled tonight. Sharks have been rolling over and dying all week. Samardzija, for as bad as the first two innings were, didn’t make Bochy’s decision to keep him in through the fifth look any worse. He kept the deficit at four, which is just close enough to make a Giants comeback theoretically possible.

The offense was lifeless for the first eight innings of the game. Jeremy Hellickson held the Giants to just two runs despite not recording a strikeout, walking four, and giving up five hits. Those two were likely the only runs they were going to get if the Nationals didn’t have a seven-run lead in the ninth. If it were a close game, they would have been facing Sean Doolittle instead of Austen Williams, a guy that even Gerardo Parra can take deep.

Buster Posey walked twice, had a hit taken away from him, and came a foot away from hitting his first homer in ten months. If the season had ended before today’s game, Posey would have ended the year with his worst walk-rate since 2014 and his worst o-swing%* ever.

*Percentage of balls outside the strike zone swung at.

He’d also have his worst strikeout rate since he got 17 plate appearances as a September call-up. So seeing Posey taking a disciplined approach is more characteristic of him. It’s good to see Posey more like himself because boy, has he gotten off to a rough start.

Last night, Buster Posey threw out two would-be base burglars. He’s been so effective at preventing the running game that even when he doesn’t throw the guy out, he still prevents the runner from advancing. Well, maybe Jeff Nelson technically prevented the runner from advancing because strike-three maneuver caused him to punch Buster in the back of the head for umpire interference.

I’ll admit, I’ve never seen an umpire interference called. I’ve seen times where maybe it should have been called, but I’ve never seen an umpire say, “Haha, whoops, sorry fellas. I ran into your dude. How ‘bout a do-over?”

Of course, it didn’t matter that Adam Eaton had to stay at first because Juan Soto hit a moonshot immediately after that. Had Nelson not interfered, I don’t think Posey would have gotten him, but it was still weird, and the only entertaining thing that happened in the first two innings.

Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are apparently feuding. Panik had two opportunities to get a force at second tonight and each time, he opted not give Crawford the assist. On a double play ball, Panik took it to the bag himself.

On the other, Panik could have made a shorter throw to second to end the inning. He looked over there, said, “Nah,” threw to first.

I think I know where the beef is coming from. He probably said to Crawford, “I’ll give you a put out when you bring back the high socks.” Bring back the high socks, Brandon Crawford. The people demand it.