The Washington Nationals carried a two-run lead into the top of the ninth but Hector Sanchez seized a down-to-the-wire opportunity to put the San Francisco Giants on top, 4-3 Thursday evening.
For the fifth time this season, Rafael Soriano failed to do his primary task – salvage a Nationals’ lead through the final three outs of the game.
As such, Buster Posey led off the ninth with a single before Roger Kieschnick drew a two-out walk against the Nationals’ up-and-down closer. Then, on a 3-2 count, Sanchez powered a 92 MPH fastball over the right-field wall to give the Giants the three runs they needed.
To get to that point, the Nats – namely, Dan Haren – had overcome a number of obstacles, particularly to start.
In the first, it looked as though the Giants would jump out to an early lead as Brandon Crawford and Posey each singled and Hunter Pence walked to load the bases. Instead, Haren forced Pablo Sandoval to pop out to third to end the inning without a runner coming home.
The Nats also appeared to be off to an early start just an inning later when Jayson Werth led off the bottom of the second with a single. With two outs, Anthony Rendon doubled and Kurt Suzuki took first on an intentional walk.
But, starter Ryan Vogelsong’s strategy worked as Haren struck out on just four pitches.
In the bottom of the third, however, the Nats would cut short Vogelsong’s outing. Denard Span led off with a single and stole second before Ryan Zimmerman drew a walk. Bryce Harper struck out swinging before Werth grounded into a force out, but the Nats fought through.
Ian Desmond doubled to left and Adam LaRoche singled and – just like that – Washington seemed off to a reassuring three-run lead.
Before Soriano’s blown save, the Giants earned one run back in the sixth after Haren gave up a solo homer to Brandon Belt.
THE GOOD: Jayson Werth is still on fire. In fact, he’s hitting just under .540 in the month of August, which has helped his average to a whopping .331. That would place him right in Miguel Cabrera territory had it not been for his lengthy stint on the DL. As such, you can’t help but wonder: had it not been for Werth’s incredible consistency since June, how far gone would the Nats really be at this point?
THE BAD: The Nationals were a swing away from a sixth consecutive win, which would have marked their longest winning streak of the season thus far.
THE UGLY: Two errors – a fielding error by Anthony Rendon and a throwing error by Ian Desmond.
THE STATS: 3 R, 8 H, 6 BB, 8 K, 2-for-11 with RISP, 11 LOB
NEXT GAME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Turner Field – Taylor Jordan (1-3, 4.14) vs. Alex Wood (2-2, 2.78)