Bullpen battered as Giants lose late
Howry, Valdez, Miller combine to allow six runs in eighth
WASHINGTON -- The Giants had everything in place Tuesday night at Nationals Park. They took a three-run lead in the sixth inning with ace Tim Lincecum on the hill and a bullpen that's been throwing well ready to back him up.
But this game unraveled, in a manner that made it that much more frustrating for the Giants afterwards. San Francisco wasted some good chances late after doing the same thing early, which opened the door for the Nationals, who slowly chipped away before taking command with a six-run eighth inning to pull out a 10-6 victory before 17,331.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said his team didn't have its best game. They wasted a 5-2 lead, made two errors, went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base. Despite getting 11 hits, the Giants (25-25) couldn't come through.
"That's a game we did let get away," Bochy said. "It was a game really that we didn't play very well defensively, offensively. We [could] have added on tonight."
Lincecum struck out the 500th batter of his career in the first inning and, despite battling at times, got through 6 1/3 innings with a 5-4 lead. But Bob Howry (0-3), Merkin Valdez and then Justin Miller all struggled in the eighth. The Nationals (14-36) got six runs on six hits in the inning, the big one coming on a two-run Ryan Zimmerman double off Valdez that gave them an 8-5 lead and snapped a six-game losing streak.
Lincecum was frustrated when leaving the game. He gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits while striking out seven and walking two. Bochy said the right-hander didn't have his best command and took awhile to get into a rhythm -- especially after needing 29 pitches to get through a scoreless first inning.
"I want to go out there and hopefully last a little bit longer than I did," Lincecum said. "I felt like I had a better shot at shutting down this team. I feel like I shouldn't have left that game with a 5-4 lead, I should've [done] a lot better than that."
After that, the bullpen ran into trouble. The Giants had a 1.53 ERA during their six-game homestand but gave up six runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings and had all kinds of problems. Jeremy Affeldt didn't allow a run or a hit but walked one and threw two wild pitches to one batter.
Howry, who got the final out of the seventh inning, gave up three runs on three hits without recording an out in the eighth; Valdez allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning, and Miller gave up a run-scoring hit and a sacrifice fly. All of this came in the eighth inning as Washington started with four straight hits and eventually sent 11 men to the plate.
"It's a tough inning," Howry said. "The key to every inning is getting that leadoff guy. Even with giving up the leadoff hit, I had two chances to get ground balls for double plays -- actually did get two ground balls. [They] just hit them in the holes."
Aaron Rowand led off the game with a homer before Washington took a 2-1 lead in the third. But the Giants took the lead in the fifth on a strange play where both Fred Lewis and Juan Uribe scored when Rowand walked. Craig Stammen's pitch for ball four bounced away from catcher Josh Bard, letting in one run. Bard then made a wild throw back in the direction of the plate to bring in another and make it 3-2.
"I was trying to play dodgeball ... trying to just stay out of the way," Rowand said.
Randy Winn added an RBI single later in the inning, and Uribe got another in the sixth to make it 5-2. But the Nationals then scored the game's next eight runs. Ron Villone (3-0) threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings and got the win.
It was just a frustrating ending, especially with what happened in the eighth. Washington's Alberto Gonzalez couldn't get a bunt down, got two strikes and wound up getting an RBI single to center. That tied the game and seemed to give the Nationals a spark.
"They don't get a bunt down, they get a hit out of that," Bochy said. "The floodgates opened there, and we just couldn't stop them. We didn't hit well with runners in scoring position, We had our opportunities to add on in that game. We just didn't do it."
Now the Giants come back Wednesday to see if Randy Johnson can win his 300th game after they get a tour of the White House in the morning. They're hoping for a better day all the way around.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.