Tim Hudson was the ultimate stopper today for the San Francisco Giants, as he dominated the Washington Nationals and helped the Giants salvage the fourth and final game of the series. The final score was 7-1, as Michael Morse singled his first three times at bat, scored two runs, and did his part to usher his former team out the door.
In typically baseball fashion, Sergio Romo made it clear that the Giants and Morse did not appreciate having Aaron Barrett nail Morse with a fastball in the opener on Monday night. Romo achieved this by hitting Kevin Franden with a fastball, with two outs in the ninth, and nobody on base.
The Giants had everything going for them in the series finale against the Nationals, under mostly-sunny skies at AT&T Park. They went into today’s game, 18-6 in the daytime, with Tim Hudson having a lifetime record of 16-5 against the Nats. They also were 29-5 in games they scored first.
But most effectively, they had Michael Morse mad, possibly feeling slighted by a media piece which dissed on his time with the Nats. Or maybe Morse was steamed about the bruise he sustained from being hit by Aaron Barrett in the ribs, by what Mike Krukow called a “side torpedo,” in game one of the series. Or maybe both.
May 29, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Michael Morse (38) leads the Giants with three hits. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of which, Morse led the complete-team victory with three hits, while teammate Hunter Pence also had three hits along with two walks. Tyler Colvin (triple, single, BB, RBI, 2R) and Brandon Crawford (double, single, BB, RBI, R) each got on base three times. Gregor Blanco had a pinch-hit, RBI single in the sixth and Hector Sanchez continued his clutch hitting with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth, capping the scoring at 7-1.
Washington starters had allowed just three runs in nineteen innings so far in the series, and Giants hitters were two for sixteen, with runners in scoring position. In the previous five games, all victories, the Giants batted .342 with runners in scoring position. Today, the point was moot, as the Giants scored seven runs with fewer than two outs and didn’t need any two-out hits.
Blake Treinen started and went five innings for the Nationals, leaving after throwing 79 pitches. He was responsible for two runs on five hits, while walking three and striking out two. Craig Stammen (0-2, 2.56 ERA) replaced him for the sixth inning and promptly gave up a lead-off single to Pablo Sandoval, followed by a single to Morse. He made things worse by balking Sandoval home and Morse to second. Gregor Blanco, batting for Ehire Adrianza, then singled Morse home.
Blanco had been batting .296, with 12 RBI’s with runners in scoring position. The hit gave the Giants a 4-1 lead but they left two men on base when Angel Pagan flied out center field to end the inning. Buster Posey had his nine-game hitting streak snapped, as he went 0-4 while hitting into a double play in the fifth.
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) was the stopper for the Giants on Thursday. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Hudson was a study in efficiency the first three innings. He started off nine of the ten batters he faced with a strike. Getting ahead on the count is just one more way he stays on top of his game. It helped that he threw nine pitches in the third inning, all of them strikes. There was one come-backer and two called-strike threes in the third.
In the fourth, a pair of singles, sandwiched around a passed ball, gave the Nationals their only run. It was no surprise that Ryan Zimmerman was the one with the RBI-single. Once again Hudson went seven innings and provided his team with a quality start.
Jean Machi pitched the eighth, facing the minimum, and Sergio Romo came in and pitched an almost-perfect ninth. He had pin-point accuracy while striking out the side, but nailed Keven Frandsen with a fastball with two outs in the ninth. This one’s for you, Michael.
This one’s for you, Michael.
The Giants’ bullpen ranks first in the National League with seventeen wins, second in ERA with a 2.50 ERA, first in saves with 23, and second in opposing batting average, at .211.
Brandon Crawford again elevated his game at shortstop, making what Mike Krukow called the play of the game in the fifth to spear a hot grounder off of speedster Denard Span, high-stepping to step on second base and nailing Span at first on a limber stretch from six-foot-five-inch Michael Morse. Crawford made another stellar play on a ball hit by Zimmerman in the sixth, with runners on first and second, when he skipped to his right to snag a grounder and then kept on flowing with the play to force Jayson Werth at third. It was a critical play at a critical juncture of the game, and Crawford delivered.
There can be no doubt that the Giants-to a man-felt pressure prior to the start of today’s game. Never had a Giants team been swept in a four-game series at AT&T Park. And so far this year, the Giants had not encountered a team with clout that could match its swagger.
In the Nationals, the Giants found that team, and thankfully figured out that lessons learned in June are designed to prevent October Swoon.
May 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) was on base five times for the Giants on Thursday afternoon. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports