Chris Stratton made Bryce Harper and his Nationals look ineffectual Monday night at AT&T Park handing Washington its third straight loss, 4-2.
Harper, who is hitting .275 with an NL-best eight home runs so far this season, could only muster a ground out, two walks and a very impressive eighth inning fly ball eaten up by the dimensions of AT&T Park. Meanwhile, the rest of the Nats (10-13) combined for just five hits, only one for extra bases, despite multiple chances for big innings, including one gifted by the Giants (10-12) in the sixth via back-to-back errors by gold glovers Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (L, 2-2, 3.04 ERA) kept the Giants scoreless through three innings, and it was beginning to look like another “It Doesn’t Get More SF” kind of game for the orange and black’s offense. But their slumbering lumber awoke in the fifth and they took a lead they never gave back.
In the second Gonzalez gave up a walk to Longoria and a single to Austin Jackson three batters later, but the Giants couldn’t pull the trigger.
The Nats scored in their half of the third after Trea Turner launched a rocket to left center that ended up at the wall. Mac Williamson and Jackson arrived at the ball at the same time and there seemed to be confusion as to who would pick it up. Turner was not confused and made it to third easily and ultimately home on a Howie Kendrick sacrifice fly.
In the fourth, the Giants broke the seal with a Buster Posey lead-off walk.
Longoria gifted second base umpire Todd Tichenor a major league shin-burger on a grounder up the middle and Kendrick played the ricochet to get Posey out at second for a fielder’s choice. Brandon Belt came to the plate to continue his molten streak taking just five pitches to send a rocket to left for a two-bagger that pushed Longoria to third.
Williamson followed with a grounder to third base that Kendrick threw home too late to get Longo, tying the score and allowing Williamson safe passage to first. Jackson and Brandon Crawford went quietly to follow, with a strikeout and a popout to shortstop Turner.
Stratton (W, 2-1, 2.32 ERA), spent the next three innings shutting Washington down. He got seven straight outs from the fourth to the sixth (four of which were groundouts to Joe Panik) before suffering a tragedy of errors.
Longoria failed to catch a 3-1 Harper foul-pop up down the left field line and Stratton ultimately walked Harper. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman lobbed a fly ball to McCutchen in right field and McCutchen inexplicably dropped it, a two-base mistake, sending Harper to third. No matter, the young arm handled it with grace, whiffing Matt Adams and coaxing Matt Wieters to line out to left to get out of the inning with no damage.
Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed by the young right-hander:
“He’s just complete pitcher he’s got four pitches and he’s comfortable throwing any pitch at any time, and he’s got great poise out there, too, he doesn’t panic. We put him in a tough position with second and third, but he picked his teammates up and that’s what it’s all about. he did a great job there, [it] probably was a turning point in the ballgame.”
The Giants scored again in the fifth inning when McCutchen doubled and made it home on a Posey single. San Francisco added on in the sixth when Belt opened the inning with a walk.
Williamson, who forced his way to the big leagues with 19 hits, including six homers in 11 games with Triple-A Sacramento, came to the plate. And he proved that Friday in Anaheim was no outlier sending a Gonzalez fastball, the first pitch of the at-bat, for a long ride — 464 feet to be exact — the other way into the 421-foot corner in right-center to give the Giants a 4-1 lead. That’s 30 feet farther than his dinger in Anaheim on Friday, despite the colder temperature of the San Francisco night.
Of the home run, Bochy said:
“I just haven’t seen too many balls hit there, even in BP, and with the wind blowing. It shows you how strong this guys is.”
Williamson and Stratton have been friends since they met in 2012, and each spent more time talking about the success of the other after Monday night’s game, than basking in their own strong performances.
Of his pal’s stellar performance, Williamson said:
“The way Stratton threw the ball tonight, I’m sure its indicative of how he’s thrown all season — I haven’t been here in person — but it was sure fun to be a part of because he’s throwing the heck out of it.”
Meanwhile, Stratton glowed about Williamson’s strong return to the Show:
“That [ball] was crushed, man. It’s just nice to see him come up and do well for us. He’s provided some spark so far, so hopefully we can continue to roll on these wins.”
Stratton ran into some trouble in the seventh when he walked Michael Taylor to open the inning. While Wilmer Difo was batting, Taylor stole second base. Difo ultimately flied out to center to move Taylor to third, and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson hit a sac fly making it 4-2.
Turner then singled to left, chasing Stratton from the game and forcing Sam Dyson to mop up. With Kendrick batting Turner stole second base, but in the end Dyson elicited a harmless fly ball to get out of the inning, and everyone exhaled.
Things got a little sketchy with Hunter Strickland (S, 4, 1.80 ERA) on the mound in the ninth. But he found the strike zone enough to make the mammoth Williamson blast stand up.
Strickland missed the zone with six of the first eight pitches he threw, stoking some stress from the 36,983 in attendance, but he settled in striking out Moises SIerra and Turner to put the threat to bed.
The Giants will host game two of a three-game series with the Nats Tuesday night. Probable starters are southpaw Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) and right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24 ERA) with first pitch at 7:15 p.m.
Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @JPWhatsername on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.