Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: Matt Cain was once a perennial Cy Young candidate and a cornerstone piece of a World Series dynasty built on pitching. He tossed one of the most impressive perfect games in baseball history and looked like a man destined for Cooperstown. Those accolades earned him one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of the sport.
Cain, though, hasn't struck fear in an opposing lineup for years. Since 2012, he simply hasn't been the same guy. He's lost velocity, movement and the confidence of his fanbase. Though he still holds a rotation spot on one of baseball's best teams, he's a shell of his former self.
But the Nats, for whatever reason, do not fall in line with Cain's recent history. On Saturday night at Nationals Park, he baffled them through five shutout innings. This came on the heels of the five no-hit frames he tossed against the Nats on July 31. That's 10 scoreless innings for Cain - who walked off the mound with a 5.16 ERA - against the Nats all in one week.
It's not like the Nats' offense wasn't playing well in recent days, either. They entered Saturday having scored 37 runs in their last four games. Cain just halted their momentum in dominant fashion.
While Cain was good, Stephen Strasburg had a rare off-night. He made it only 4 2/3 innings for his shortest outing of the season. Strasburg allowed four earned runs on eight hits and a walk.
Strasburg wasn't great, but it was the Nats' offense that truly held them back. The Nats went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position with their only run coming on a Danny Espinosa RBI single in the eighth inning. One of their best opportunities came in the fourth when Espinosa's 18th hit-by-pitch of the season loaded the bases with one out. But Ben Revere then grounded into a forceout at home and Strasburg grounded out to end the frame.
The Giants got their fifth run in the seventh inning off reliever Blake Treinen. Buster Posey brought in Eduardo Nunez with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. Nunez had four hits in the game after recording just two in his first seven outings with the Giants since joining them at the trade deadline.
The Giants scored another in the eighth off Oliver Perez. Ehire Adrianza landed a pinch-hit RBI single to score Hunter Pence. Their seventh run came on Brandon Belt's 13th homer, a solo shot off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
The Nationals had their four-game winning streak snapped in the loss.
What it means: The Nats fell to 65-45 on the season overall and to 3-3 against the Giants. The winner of Sunday's finale takes the season series between the teams.
Strasburg's shortest start: Strasburg just didn't have it on this particular night. Despite striking out eight batters, the right-hander couldn't even make it through the fifth inning. Manager Dusty Baker pulled him after 88 pitches with a man on first and two outs in the fifth, a situation he would normally let his pitcher try to fight through. Clearly, Baker saw something wrong with his ace.
Strasburg threw three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fourth. He gave up an RBI single to Posey and then walked Joe Panik with the bases loaded to score another run. It was the first time in Strasburg's career that he's walked in a run.
Strasburg gave up two more runs in the fifth inning, one on a double to Belt and another on a Brandon Crawford sacrifice fly. Belt's double scored Nunez, who had reached with his second triple of the night. Strasburg had yet to allow a triple all season before giving up two to Nunez. Ironically, the last time Strasburg gave up a triple he also gave up two in one game and that also came against the Giants, in a loss on Aug. 13 of last year.
Werth keeps it going: Like most of the Nats' lineup, Jayson Werth didn't have an exceptional game on offense. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. That walk, though, extended Werth's streak of reaching base to 37 straight games. That's a new high for the 2016 MLB season, besting Marcell Ozuna's 36 straight set back on May 29.
Werth passed Denard Span - now with the Giants - for sole possession of second place in Nats history with his on-base streak. He now trails only Ryan Zimmerman, who got on in 43 straight games back in 2009. During Werth's streak, he has 33 hits and 27 walks.
Turner gets on twice: Speaking of reaching base, Trea Turner singled and walked, and has now reached base at least twice in nine of his last 11 starts. He led off the bottom of the first with an infield single on a slow chopping groundball to Panik at second base. Turner then walked with one out in the third inning. Both times he did not advance. In the first inning he got caught stealing second base by Posey, who gunned him out with a perfect throw. Turner was originally called safe before a Giants challenge overturned the call. It was the first time in nine attempts this season that Turner was caught stealing.
Goodwin debuts: Over five years after he was a first round pick for the Nationals, outfielder Brian Goodwin made his MLB debut on Saturday night as a defensive replacement for Bryce Harper in the top of the seventh inning. Great for Goodwin, but Harper left due to a stiff neck. Read more on his injury here.
Up next: The Nationals and Giants close their head-to-head season series with a rubber match on Sunday. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. with Tanner Roark (11-6, 3.02) set to face off with All-Star lefty Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.25).
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