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).
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