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Nats bats go cold, defense makes key mistakes in loss to Giants

Nats bats go cold, defense makes key mistakes in loss to Giants

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday evening at AT&T Park.

How it happened: Pitchers came through for the San Francisco Giants in more ways than one on Sunday.

On the mound, it started with Matt Cain, who tossed five no-hit innings before he was relieved. The Giants' bullpen then combined to pitch four scoreless frames from there. 

At the plate, it was Madison Bumgarner, who pinch-hit for Cain to lead off the bottom of the fifth and roped a double off the brick wall in right-center field. And on the base paths, it was Jeff Samardzija, a former Notre Dame wide receiver who scored from second on a throwing error.

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez put in another solid outing himself to continue his recent surge, but it wasn't enough on a day their lineup went cold and their defense made uncharacteristic mistakes behind him. Gonzalez went six innings with two runs allowed - one of them earned - but took a hard-luck loss in part due to errors by Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon.

Turner botched a flip to second base on an Angel Pagan groundball in the third that could have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Conor Gillaspie scored following his leadoff triple.

Rendon's was also a throwing error. In the fifth inning he bounced a throw to first on a Hunter Pence groundball. That scored Samardzija, when Rendon's throw could have made the third out and prevented the run.

Those blunders were magnified on a day the Nats' offense just didn't have it. Turner and Ben Revere combined to go 0-for-8 at the top of the order. Wilson Ramos went 0-for-4. The Nats had just three hits, went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

The Nats lost for the second straight game and split their four-game series at the Giants despite taking the first two matchups. The Nats are 3-3 on their current road trip. They finished the month of July with a 13-12 record despite outscoring their opponents 108-89.

What it means: The Nats dropped to 61-44 on the season, the same record as the Giants. Both the Marlins and Mets won their games, which means Miami is only four games back in the NL East and the Mets trail by 6 1/2.

Gio strong again: Gonzalez continued moving in the right direction with his outing on Sunday with six innings and one earned run allowed on six hits, two walks and one strikeout. He threw 89 pitches, 53 of them strikes. The Nats lefty closed the month of July with a 2.70 ERA (9 ER, 30 IP) in five starts. 

Gonzalez appears to have turned a corner after a disastrous stretch of eight starts from May 23 to June 30 when he gave up 39 earned runs in 43 1/3 innings. Gonzalez is still allowing a few too many base runners, but he's not allowing things to unravel from there. His resurgence is an excellent development for the Nats.

Belisle allows an insurance run: Matt Belisle only worked one inning, but it was a rough one for the veteran right-hander. He took over for Gonzalez in the seventh and gave up a run on three hits, including a leadoff triple to former Nats outfielder Denard Span. Span came home on a one-out single by Pagan. That run Belisle allowed broke a streak of six straight scoreless outing for the Nats reliever. And even with that blemish, he boasts a 1.98 ERA on the year.

Rendon redeems himself: Rendon may have screwed up in the bottom of the fifth, but he wasted no time making up for it with an RBI double in the very next frame. Rendon laced line drive to right-center off Giants reliever George Kontos to score Bryce Harper and finally put the Nats on the board with their first run. Rendon also added a walk and is now 15-for-46 (.326) with four homers, eight RBI, six runs, three steals and four walks in his last 12 games.

Injury scares: Both Harper and Ryan Zimmerman had moments where it appeared like they could have seriously hurt themselves. Harper's was on a catch to end the first inning. It was in foul territory where the bullpen mounds are located at AT&T Park. Harper tripped and tumbled over them face-first, but was fine. Zimmerman later took a 93 mile per hour fastball off his left wrist in the top of the ninth. He dropped to the ground writhing in pain, but stayed in to take first. He even doffed his helmet sarcastically at Giants fans who jeered him as he walked to take the base.

Speaking of injuries, Daniel Murphy pinch-hit in the top of the ninth after being held out of the starting lineup for two straight days with leg tightness. He struck out swinging with Zimmerman on second for the final out.

Up next: The Nats move on to Arizona for three games at the Diamondbacks to close out their lengthy road trip. Stephen Strasburg (14-1, 2.68) will get the start in the opener opposite former seventh overall pick Archie Bradley (4-6, 4.17).

[RELATED: Nats may have gotten a steal with Melancon]

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Nationals hunt for ways to maintain Gerardo Parra’s mojo without him

Nationals hunt for ways to maintain Gerardo Parra’s mojo without him

As much as technology has been the enemy in baseball in recent weeks, the Nationals hope it becomes an aid to keep last year’s vibe cooking.

Aníbal Sánchez tested it out at Winterfest, the 2020 group’s first large assembling, in order to import Gerardo Parra’s beaming bubbliness. There he was on FaceTime, giggling, smiling and with a sore but colorful forearm.

He won’t be in West Palm Beach at the team’s spring training facility. He won’t be on the 25-man roster. He won’t be on the field at Nationals Park this year -- probably. Throwing out the first pitch is something he’s interested in. But logistics are not on his side.

Parra is off to Japan after an immediate offer from the Yomiuri Giants following the World Series. He circled back with Mike Rizzo first because he wanted to return. His conversation with Rizzo convinced him to take the offer in Japan -- more playing time, more money, more marketing -- though he still hopes to return to the major leagues before he is done with baseball.

“I love playing everyday,” Parra told NBC Sports Washington. “That’s more important for me.”

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

So, a void exists among the team’s ministers of fun. Parra’s scooter is parked somewhere else, its horn finally silent and wheels stopped. His body is across the globe, which makes the Nationals wonder how his aura can persist in the clubhouse. If you can’t explain it, and can’t intentionally manufacture it, how do you bottle it? Such is the complication of chemistry.

“I talked to Aníbal: please don’t lose the emotion, don’t lose the good feelings we have right now in the clubhouse because that’s good for me,” Parra said. “I think that’s more important to me. We worked a lot to do that. Don’t lose that. That’s the only thing I want to say to my teammates because that’s good when you come into the clubhouse and feel everybody happy and feel like a family.

“I put alerts in my phone because when those guys win I want to wake up or be ready and happy in that moment. I want to be there, too. The FaceTime. I want to be there. I’ll be ready for that.”

Strapped to his left forearm no matter his location is a forever reminder of 2020. Parra’s tattoo commemorating the World Series win and his accompanying “Baby Shark” cultural pop took 11 hours to sink into his skin. The effort is replete with the World Series trophy and smiley face wearing his preferred tinted glasses. His former teammates sent the image around to each other. The idea was hatched once the Nationals made the playoffs: Parra declared then he would receive the tattoo if they won the World Series.

“A whole forearm tat,” Max Scherzer said. “That’s pretty aggressive.”

“That’s aggressive,” Trea Turner said.

“It looks really cool,” Sean Doolittle said.

The tattoo’s existence reminds of Parra’s all-in approach. He wasn’t cheery half the time, or only when things were going well. His ecstatic-to-be-here vibe was close to perpetual. A slump at the plate temporarily dented it. A conversation with Davey Martinez brought it back to life. Now, it’s gone.

“I think it’s important we brought so many of those [other] guys back because I think our biggest strength last year might have been the chemistry in the clubhouse,” Doolittle said. “Last year was so special because everything in the clubhouse came together so organically. It wasn’t like Parra chose “Baby Shark” because he thought the fans would latch on to it and it would become a thing. He was just doing his own thing because he wanted to change his luck.”

Doolittle’s reference of a nearly full roster repeat came up when others addressed the topic of Parra’s absence. Sánchez referenced it. Scherzer referenced it. On and on.

“The core of this team’s still back,” Scherzer said. “And we can all look each other in the eyes and know when it counts, we can all count on each other and we’re a bunch of winners. I think [the chemistry] is just going to breed itself. We’re going to face a tremendous amount of challenges this year coming into it, but it’s going to be what it takes in the clubhouse to respond to it. And that’s what we play the game for. It’s going to be a challenge and we’re up for it.”

Even Parra agrees. He will be watching from Japan while 14 hours in the future, and talking on Sánchez’s phone, and continuing to counter modern concepts in baseball. Math despised the Nationals for much of last season. Yet, they won the World Series and attribute much of the outcome to chemistry, an unpalatable concept to a computer.

“I don’t think the guys will lose that,” Parra said. “Because other guys on that team love winning. When you have a guy play baseball to win, the guy he can’t lose that. I promise you these guys to the playoffs again too because these guys have a great heart.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Gerardo Parra wants to throw out the first pitch on Nationals Opening Day

Gerardo Parra wants to throw out the first pitch on Nationals Opening Day

April 2nd, 2020 is a big day for Nationals fans everywhere.

It's the home opener against the Mets, players will get their World Series rings and the fans will be able to watch the Nats hang the first championship banner in franchise history.

How could a day like that get any better? Maybe if Gerardo Parra, better known as "Baby Shark," threw out the first pitch. Luckily enough, Parra is most definitely down. 

"I want to throw the first pitch," Parra said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington. "I'm working, but it's not in my hands. I want to talk to the Japan team, but like I say, I don't want to say no because you never know."

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Right after the World Series ended, Parra said he received an offer from the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He ultimately signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a $3 million vesting option for 2021. His options to come back and play in the MLB were slim. 

Parra galvanized an entire locker room and fan base during the Nationals' improbable run to a World Series title. He added a level of weird to the team that hadn't been present before, so much so that there are actual videos of Stephen Strasburg dancing with Parra in the clubhouse. 

He only spent a short time in DC, but Parra quickly became a Nationals legend among the fans. Hopefully, we'll be able to see him throw the first pitch before he embarks on a career overseas. 

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