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Nationals jump the Shark, clobber Giants 15-2 behind Scherzer

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Washington’s Max Scherzer showed why he’s one of the premier pitchers in the game on Wednesday, striking out 10 in six innings to become the first five game winner in the majors as the Nationals blasted the Giants 15-2.

BY ANTHONY SOSA

A rough outing for San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and a strong showing from the Washington Nationals’ offense proved too much for the Giants to complete a series sweep as they lost 15-2 Wednesday at AT&T Park. Despite the loss, the Giants still managed to win the series, after winning both Monday and Tuesday night.

In his 2018 home debut, Samardzija started shaky right out of the gate. Three hits and a walk, contributed to an early 3-0 Nationals lead. First baseman Matt Adams delivered the first run four batters into the game with an RBI single into center. Two batters later, left fielder Andrew Stevenson shot a ball over Gregor Blanco’s head for a two-RBI double. Samardzija finished the opening frame with 30 pitches already under his belt.

During the first inning, after Samardzija walked Michael A. Taylor, manager Bruce Bochy and the medical trainer headed out to check on the pitcher. It turned out to be a short visit and it was just precautionary. “We just wanted to check on him at that point,” Bochy said after the game. “He said he was fine. As you saw, his stuff picked up, which you see sometimes with starting pitchers. They’re trying to get settled in. He had just come off the DL, so we just wanted to make sure he was feeling okay.”

The following two innings, Samardzija settled down and only allowed a combined three hits and a walk but managed to work around the damage and prevented any runs from scoring. However, in the top of the fourth inning, after allowing a single to Trea Turner, the Giants decided to intentionally walk Bryce Harper with two outs to face Adams. The 29-year-old slugger made them pay by launching a 365-foot, three-run homer into the right field stands, which gave the Nationals a 6-1 lead.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Nationals first baseman Matt Adams, in the lineup to give Ryan Zimmerman a day off, made the most of it by driving in six runs in Washington’s 15-2 thrashing of the Giants at AT&T Park.

Samardzija’s final line included 3.2 innings of work, where he allowed six earned runs on eight hits along with three walks and three strikeouts. After two starts, his ERA sits at 6.23. “It was just one of those days,” Samardzija said. “I’ve been feeling really well. It’s just a little off. I’ve walked a handful of guys here in the first two starts, which isn’t normal. Just trying to make up for a little ground missed in camp that you normally get those 20-23 innings. Obviously, it’s a little different script for me right now this year. We’re going to work with it and keep getting better. Move on to the next one.”

The Giants offense couldn’t amount much off last year’s NL Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer. The right-hander provided six innings of work, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two walks along while striking out 10 batters. Scherzer ran into some trouble in the bottom of the second inning. He allowed back-to-back doubles to Brandon Crawford and Nick Hundley, which put a run on the board for the Giants. Scherzer also allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Belt hit a ball into triple’s alley for a three-bagger. Pablo Sandoval followed Belt’s triple with a double and the Giants had their second run of the game.

The Nationals’ offense put up more runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Turner drove in two runs with a base hit into right field to extend the Nats lead to 8-2. The following inning, Stevenson hit another double, which knocked in Taylor. Adrian Sanchez followed Stevenson’s double with a single that provided the Nationals 10th run of the game. A passed ball and a bases loaded walk plated two more for the Nationals in the seventh. They added three more in the top of the eighth, including an Adams’ two-RBI double.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Andrew Stevenson, making his first start of the year, went 4-5 with 4 RBI’s on Wednesday. Coming into the game Stevenson had only made five plate appearances all season.

14 of the season high 15 runs scored by Washington came with two outs in an inning, the most two-out runs in team history and the most in the Majors since 2015. Each of the first seven hitters in the Nationals’ lineup recorded at least one hit. They scored in five consecutive innings, as well (4th-8th). Adams, Stevenson and Turner all had big days at the plate. Turner went 5-for-6 with two RBI, two runs and a stolen base. Adams provided six RBI and scored twice in a 3-for-5 effort, finishing just a triple shy of the cycle. Stevenson, who came into the game with just five at-bats this season, went 4-for-5 with two doubles, four RBI and two runs scored.

“You got to put good lineups like that away when you get the chance,” Samardzija said. “As you can see, once they start getting runners on, they start feeling more confident. Anytime a lineup gets a guy in the stretch early and often, they’re going to have a good day.”

Wednesday marked one of the worst outings for the Giants’ bullpen this season. Combined, Pierce Johnson, Josh Osich, Cory Gearrin and Roberto Gomez allowed nine runs (six earned) on 10 hits and three walks. “They’re not on track (Osich and Gearrin),” Bochy said. “O (Osich) really had some good moments today, lots of swings and misses but he also had trouble getting the ball where he wanted at times. I think with Cory, he’s probably battling some things a little too much right now, instead of just going out there and attacking the strike zone. This game is all about confidence and they get shaken a little bit, they don’t throw the ball with as much conviction. That’s what we have to get back with both of them.”

With the Giants taking the series, that gives them back-to-back series wins. With an 11-13 record, they currently stand fourth in the NL West. The Giants’ homestand continues Friday as they welcome back the Los Angeles Dodgers for a four-game series. By the end of April, the two teams will have already faced off nine times. Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) gets the call to start for the Giants in Game 1 of the series. The lefty is still searching for his first win this season. In his first start of the season, Holland faced the Dodgers, where he completed five innings of work, allowing three runs on three hits along with three walks and four punchouts. Opposing Holland is Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-0, 1.99).

Game Notes:

The win snapped a four game losing streak for the Nationals in which they had scored a combined total
of eight runs.

Before the start of Wednesday’s game, Mac Williamson, who was originally penciled in to start in left field and bat sixth, was scratched due to neck stiffness. The Giants recalled Williamson April 20. Since his return to the big league club, he’s hit .316 (6-for-19) with three home runs and 6 RBI. “He had a stiff neck, so we scratched him,” Bochy said. “I think he’ll be playing the following day. We just wanted to give him a break.”

Despite a rough start to the season, Belt continues to make strides at the dish. In his last seven games, he’s hitting .384/.467/1.077 with five home runs, eight RBI and eight runs scored.

After missing the entire 2017 campaign and the start of this season due to Tommy John surgery, reliever Will Smith remains on track to return sometime in May. Smith is currently rehabbing in triple-A Sacramento. He’s pitched in five games, where he’s combined for 4.2 innings allowing two runs and striking out nine.

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