WASHINGTON – The Giants could not begin their three-game weekend series at rain-soaked Nationals Park until after 10 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.
By the time the earth completed its rotational axis, the two teams had wedged 27 ½ innings into 24 hours. And then, because they couldn’t decide matters, they played some more.
The Nationals claimed a 6-2 victory and a doubleheader split on Sunday when Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the 11th inning off Albert Suarez, and we can only hope that Lou Piniella didn’t sit at home and watch both games.
That’s because Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker both passed him for 14th place on the all-time managerial victory list. Bochy claimed his 1,836th win in Game 1, and Baker matched him in Game 2.
Of the 13 managers ahead of them, only Gene Mauch is not in the Hall of Fame.
The Giants received enough key contributions to sweep the doubleheader: Pablo Sandoval hit his first home run as a Giant in almost three years, and the pitcher with the NL’s most bloated ERA matched the Nationals ace who is likely to win the NL Cy Young Award.
Matt Moore pitched well on the road against a threat-filled lineup and little margin for error, holding the Nationals to two runs while striking out nine in seven innings.
It was an odd start at times. Moore didn’t walk a batter, and yet twice he lost curveballs that spun out of his fingertips and soared like an approach wedge to the backstop.
Those were not the two pitches he most wanted back, though. Daniel Murphy hit a home run on a two-strike pitch in the third inning, Ryan Zimmerman pounded a fastball into the stands in the sixth.
Moore hung tough with Scherzer, who struck out 10 in seven innings, and Sandoval provided one prodigious equalizer in the seventh when he drove Scherzer’s fastball into the upper deck.
Sandoval’s shot was his first homer as a Giant since Sept. 5, 2014, in an interleague game at Detroit. And it was classic Panda. Scherzer tried to jam him inside and up with a fastball, and Sandoval turned on it, sending the high drive just inside the right field pole.
The home run took Moore off the hook for a loss, and the Giants bullpen – does this sound familiar? – held serve as the Nationals tried to win in a walk-off. Hunter Strickland appeared for the second time Sunday and struck out Anthony Rendon, who had taken him deep in Game 1. Albert Suarez flashed 96 mph heat in a scoreless 10th inning.
But Suarez gave up consecutive singles to Murphy and Zimmermann to start the 11th, with Murphy making a great read on a blooper up the middle as he went from first third. After an intentional walk to Rendon set up the force at the plate, Kendrick connected and the powerless Giants outfielders merely jogged in the opposite direction back to the dugout.
The Giants had scored the tying run when they began the fourth inning with three consecutive hits. Denard Span singled, Joe Panik doubled and Hunter Pence followed with a ground single up the middle.
Span scored and Michael A. Taylor made a strong throw from center field that was up the third base line. Nationals catcher Matt Wieters caught the ball as it appeared to simultaneously strike Panik in the ear flap of his helmet, and hung onto it to record the out.
Panik pawed for the plate to no avail and stayed down for a moment before getting up and blinking as a contact lens came loose. It was a scary collision, especially for a player who spent a month on the concussion DL last season.
Panik went down the dugout stairs with head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and stayed in the game, although he appeared to be giving himself field tests as he stood at his position. He held out an index finger and moved it back and forth to test his vision.
The last time Panik had a concussion, stemming from a pitch from Moore (then with the Rays) that struck him in the helmet, he played a week before reporting symptoms.
Jarrett Parker toted an 0-for-5, four-strikeout performance in Game 1 into a nightcap against the NL’s leading strikeout artist. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, both against Scherzer.
Parker thus joined Dave Kingman and Bobby Bonds as the only Giants in the San Francisco era to strike out six times in one day. Kingman had a pair of three-strikeout games in a doubleheader against the Astros on Aug. 6, 1972; Bonds had a four-strikeout and a two-strikeout game against the Astros on Sept. 15, 1971. Both of those doubleheaders were at Candlestick Park.
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