Giants score go-ahead run on wild pitch to knock out Nationals

SAN FRANCISCO -- Joe Panik scored on a wild pitch to break a seventh-inning tie, and the San Francisco Giants edged the Washington Nationals 3-2 Tuesday to grab a spot in the National League Championship Series.

The Giants, a wild-card entrant in the playoffs, won the best-of-five NL Division Series in four games. San Francisco moves on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS in a rematch of the 2012 league finals. The Giants won that series 4-3 en route to their second World Series championship in three seasons.

Coincidentally, the Giants won this year's season series over the Cardinals 4-3.

Game 1 of the NLCS is scheduled for Saturday night in St. Louis.

Rebounding immediately after the Nationals tied the score 2-2 in the top of the seventh, the Giants got consecutive one-out singles from second baseman Panik and catcher Buster Posey off Washington reliever Matt Thornton to get their game-winning uprising going.

Right-hander Aaron Barrett replaced Thornton at that point and walked Giants right fielder Hunter Pence to load the bases. The Nationals' fifth pitcher then uncorked the eventual difference-making wild pitch in the dirt with third baseman Pablo Sandoval at the plate, allowing Panik to score the go-ahead run.

The Giants threatened to add more, but Posey was thrown out at the plate after Barrett floated another errant pitch while attempting to intentionally walk Sandoval. Barrett made the tag after taking a throw from catcher Wilson Ramos, an out call that withstood a video review.

Right-hander Sergio Romo, the fourth Giants pitcher, retired the top of the Nationals' lineup in order to preserve the one-run advantage in the eighth.

San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla finished off the series with a hitless ninth, sending the top-seeded Nationals into the offseason by getting Ramos to ground to second after walking Washington star left fielder Bryce Harper with two outs.

Rookie reliever Hunter Strickland, who gave up the tying run in his only inning, was credited with the win. Thornton took the loss.

The Giants out-hit the Nationals 9-4, with Panik, Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford recording two hits apiece.

After trailing most of the night, the Nationals got even at 2-2 on a solo home run by Harper off Strickland in the top of the seventh.

The homer came in a rematch of a Harper-Strickland duel in Game 1 that also resulted in a home run, the first of three the left-hander hit in the series. This one was a "splash hit" into San Francisco Bay, just the third recorded in the postseason in the 15-year existence of AT&T Park.

Harper has four career homers in postseason play, equaling the most in major league history by a player under the age of 22.

Harper also doubled home the Nationals' first run in the fifth inning.

Both starters -- Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong and Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez -- pitched effectively, but neither got a decision.

Vogelsong was pulled with a 2-1 lead two outs into the sixth inning, having just been rescued at the right field wall by Pence, who leaped into the padding to take extra bases away from Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth.

In remaining unbeaten in five career postseason starts, Vogelsong allowed one run on just two hits. He walked two and struck out four.

For the second day in a row, an error by a pitcher played a critical role in the first runs of the game.

This time, it involved Gonzalez.

After Crawford lined a one-out single in the bottom of the second, left fielder Juan Perez tapped a potential double-play grounder back to Gonzalez. In his haste to make a play at second base, the pitcher fanned on the grounder for an error, putting two aboard.

Vogelsong then laid down a bunt toward Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who converged on the ball at the same time as Gonzalez. Neither fielded it, however, allowing Vogelsong to reach on what was ruled an infield single, loading the bases.

Clearly rattled by the back-to-back mishaps, Gonzalez proceeded to walk struggling Giants leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco on four pitches, handing San Francisco a 1-0 lead.

Panik's grounder to first scored Perez with a second run.

The Nationals finally broke through on Vogelsong for their first hit and, one batter later, a run in the top of the fifth.

Shortstop Ian Desmond hit a first-pitch single to lead off the fifth. He scored when left fielder Bryce Harper sliced a RBI double into the left field corner, narrowing the Nationals' deficit to 2-1.

Vogelsong escaped further damage by retiring three of the next four batters. He issued a two-out walk in the sequence to pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz, whose appearance ended Gonzalez's night after four innings.

Gonzalez allowed two runs (both unearned) on four hits and one walk. He struck out one.

NOTES: Washington manager Matt Williams announced before the game that both RHP Stephen Strasburg, the Game 1 loser, and RHP Jordan Zimmermann, a Game 2 sensation, were told to be prepared to see relief duty in Game 4. Williams admitted it would take an emergency for Zimmermann to get a call on just two days' rest. Neither Strasburg nor Zimmermann got into the game. ... Giants manager Bruce Bochy kept OF Gregor Blanco, who began the day 1-for-18 in the postseason, atop the lineup. ... Bochy did make two lineup tweaks for the game against Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez: He replaced left-handed-hitting LF Travis Ishikawa with right-handed-hitting Juan Perez, and he flip-flopped RF Hunter Pence and 3B Pablo Sandoval in the fourth and fifth spots.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
30°