SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong's consistency was bound to skip a beat at some point. Yet when the right-hander's steadiness finally took a holiday, it still seemed shocking.Perhaps because it happened in such extreme fashion. Vogelsong, who had yielded as many as four runs only twice all season, surrendered seven runs in Monday's third inning as the Washington Nationals thumped the Giants, 14-2. The outcome knocked San Francisco into a first-place tie with Los Angeles in the National League West standings. Having worked at least six innings in his previous 21 starts this season, Vogelsong lasted only 2 2/3 innings this time. He allowed eight runs and nine hits as his ERA climbed from a league-best 2.27 to 2.72. Vogelsong (10-6) had permitted two runs or fewer in each of his last 12 home outings. But that credential proved invalid against Washington, the NL's highest-scoring club since the All-Star break. "It's a great run he's been on," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I told him that when he came out [of the game]." Vogelsong insisted that he felt fine.
"I don't think sharpness was the issue," he said. "I just couldn't get them to hit the ball at anybody. It's part of the game sometimes. It doesn't bounce your way. Things just didn't go right tonight."Vogelsong was referring to a handful of hits that slipped past Giants fielders yet would have been difficult to convert into outs. Examples: During a streak of three RBI singles in Washington's big third inning, third baseman Marco Scutaro tried to backhand Michael Morse's grounder but only deflected it, and Danny Espinosa's subsequent hit was a ball that second baseman Ryan Theriot appeared to have within his grasp but couldn't quite corral. "A couple of those balls [go] a few inches one way, he gets out of that," Bochy said. But, Bochy added, "He probably wasn't as sharp [as usual] either, that's fair to say." Most of the Nationals had little or no experience against Vogelsong. It didn't matter.
"When you haven't faced someone, it's tough," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "You really don't know what he's going to throw. I guess we got into some favorable counts early, and when we had a chance to kind of capitalize and put some runs on him, we got some big hits. Whenever you have a chance against a guy like that, you have to take advantage of it because he obviously doesn't give you too many chances. He hasn't done that all year."Washington's ability to sustain offense at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park was imposing. The Nationals' 21 hits set a single-game ballpark record, eclipsing the mark of 20 shared by the Marlins (July 23, 2005) and Giants (Aug. 14, 2001 against Florida). Espinosa and Roger Bernadina, who wasn't in the original starting lineup, each went 4-for-6 with three RBIs. Zimmerman, Steve Lombardozzi and Kurt Suzuki had three hits apiece. "It was one of those nights when what could go wrong went wrong," Bochy said. "They're a good ballclub. They made some pretty good contact and found some holes." The Giants might be wondering whether they're capable of finding any holes in the Nationals' game. Washington has outscored them 38-14 while winning all four of their meetings. If this regular-season series is a postseason preview, as some observers might maintain, it's not a compelling matchup. The Nationals, who own a Major League-best 72-44 record, have been especially rough on San Francisco's highly regarded pitching rotation. Giants starters have compiled a 12.74 ERA against Washington, allowing 25 earned runs and 33 hits in 17 2/3 innings. "The only thing you can do is execute your pitches and keep your confidence. It doesn't matter who you're playing," Bochy said. "If you do that, you'll be fine. But we've had a tough time against this club. They're having a great year. That's why their record is what it is." The initial sign of Vogelsong's vulnerability materialized in the first inning as Zimmerman doubled home Lombardozzi, who singled to open the game. It marked only the second time this year that Vogelsong allowed a first-inning run. Washington's third-inning uprising began with Lombardozzi's one-out walk. Bryce Harper and Zimmerman singled to load the bases and set up Adam LaRoche's walk that forced in a run. Morse, Espinosa and Bernadina rapped consecutive RBI singles, a sequence that ended with first-base umpire Jerry Layne ejecting Bochy. The skipper argued that Theriot threw out Bernadina, who fielded a ball that caromed off Vogelsong's right shoulder. Suzuki's three-run double concluded the inning's scoring and, for all intents and purposes, the game.
"That was the only ball I really left in the middle of the plate," Vogelsong said.The Nationals prolonged their dominance by adding three runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (15-6), who pulled into a tie for the league lead in wins, blanked San Francisco until pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford delivered a parabolic two-run, two-out homer in the seventh inning.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.