July 2, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (32) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco Giants blow 4-run lead-lose to Nationals

The Washington Nationals spotted the San Francisco Giants a four-run lead, and then methodically scored six runs in the sixth inning, to regain the lead and go on to a 14-6 thrashing of the Orange and Black.  In another case of the bullpen imploding, Jeremy Affeldt (5 H, 4 ER) and Jean Machi (2 H, 1 ER) combined to give up five runs on seven hits, as the Giants blew the opportunity to take a series from a winning team.

Though San Francisco scored once in the first on a leadoff home run from Gregor Blanco, once on a second-inning home run from Travis Ishikawa, and three more runs in the third inning on RBI-singles by Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford and a sacrifice fly from Ishikawa, when it came to containing the Nationals, it was not enough.

Ryan Vogelsong had mixed reviews for the first three innings, walking three, but not allowing a hit, and escaping damage.  He helped his own cause with a fine defensive play in the fourth inning, going to his right to bare-hand a soft roller by Bryce Harper, and throw him out at first base, with Adam LaRoche advancing to third on the play.  LaRoche would score moments later on Asdrubal Cabrera’s double, but at least he was the only base runner.

Having survived the fourth inning, Vogelsong faced the top of the Nationals’ lineup leading off the bottom of the fifth.  The Nats hit him hard, three bullets, but all three found gloves.  Denard Span lined out to Ishikawa at first; if it gets past, it’s at least a double if not more.  Anthony Rendon lined out to Morse deep in left, and Jayson Werth hit a hot grounder to Panik’s right, which he back-handed and threw to first base for the final out of the inning.  

So when Ian Desmond led off the sixth with a home run, making the score 6-3, Bruce Bochy pulled Vogelsong for Jeremy Affeldt.  Bryce Harper immediately doubled, Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Brandon Crawford’s glove, and Affeldt wild-pitched Harper home.  Jose Lobaton followed with an RBI-single, pinch-hitter Scott Hairston doubled home Lobaton, and Denard Span singled home Hairston.  Bochy gave Affeldt the hook.

I might have pulled Affeldt earlier, were I Bochy, because by the time Jean Machi came in, there was just too much momentum, and the heart of the order was up.  Anthony Rendon drew a walk, Jayson Werth broke the tie with a single, and Adam LaRoche drove in the final run of the inning with another single.

Before the carnage, the Giants had a couple of bright spots, one being two-strike hits off of nemesis Stephen Strasburg.  There was the home-run from Blanco, the home run from Ishikawa and an RBI-double from Michael Morse, all coming with two strikes.  Two-strike bombs are devastating to opponents, because they don’t expect them and 2-strike hits are so demoralizing.

Stephen Strasburg had faced the Giants four times, giving up five earned runs in twenty-five innings.  Today, Strasburg gave up five earned runs in three innings.  Knocking both Doug Fister and Strasburg around does bring a smattering of comfort to Giants fans. 

In any case, bright spots aside, the cloud that continues to hang over San Francisco broadened today, as the most reliable component of the team broke down.  This game does not inspire confidence that the Giants are capable of either securing a playoff spot, or going anywhere if they do.  

Something has got to give or this team will be remembered for nothing more than a great start, and a no-hitter from Tim Lincecum.  Hard times.

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