Giants jump Nationals to seize upper hand

It’s easy to get swept up when starting pitchers battle for supremacy, and even easier to drop everything when players like Buster Posey and Jayson Werth stride into the batters box.

It can make things like an unfamiliar second baseman getting a hit, or a reliever closing a sixth inning, seem almost innocuous.

Both were key factors when the visiting Giants stole Game 1 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals 3-2 Friday.

Hunter Strickland, who came in to replace Jake Peavy with two outs in the sixth, struck out Ian Desmond on four pitches. The last three were 98, 99 and 100-mph heaters to douse a bases-loaded fire.

The moment coaxed a human moment out of announcer Jon Miller on the KNBR broadcast:

“I started to get a little tense there in the Nationals sixth inning.”

It was a statement to which co-host Dave Flemming could only ask:

“Really?”

Strickland was actually designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 2013 to make room for former San Francisco lefty Jonathan Sanchez on the 40-man roster.

Despite Strickland giving up two solo homers to Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera in the seventh inning to make it 3-2, he and the Giants bullpen held on to award Peavy (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA) the first postseason win of his career.

Manager Bruce Bochy, as he’s done time and again this year, praised the efforts of his bullpen:

“Strickland got a big strikeout when he needed it, Romo made a big pitch when he had to and, of course, Casilla. The bullpen stepped up in a huge way today.”

Peavy worked through 5-2/3 innings on 102 pitches. He only surrendered two hits and three walks with three strikeouts.

His strategy was to keep batters off-balance, something he and the bullpen did a majority of the game:

“For the most part, we just threw the ball where we needed to throw it to try and keep it off the barrel. That lineup is a really, really good lineup, a really deep lineup up. You’re talking about Asdrubal Cabrera hitting eighth. I’ve faced Cleveland before many times and he’s hit second or third. This guy’s an All-Star.”

Another Giants rookie becoming a household name in the Bay Area is Joe Panik.

The second baseman racked up three hits in Wednesday’s Wild Card game against Pittsburgh and clubbed a couple more Friday. He finished 2-for-5 with one run and one RBI.

Panik has exhibited poise on and off the field since his call-up.

He continues to deliver in both beyond his years:

“As a competitor, you always want to help the team win. From day one, since I came up, I’ve always just wanted to be another link in the chain.”

As marquee players go, Posey drove in a run on a 1-for-4 day with a single to score Panik in the seventh. That run proved crucial after two solo home runs from Washington in the bottom of the inning.

Santiago Casilla picked up his first postseason save with a perfect ninth.

Peavy’s part-time workout partner in San Diego, Stephen Strasburg (L, 0-1, 1.80 ERA), took the loss on five innings, eight hits, two runs, one earned, a walk and two strikeouts.

Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) will pitch Game 2 of the five-game series in Washington Saturday. He’ll duel Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA) coming off a no-hitter in his last outing. Game time is 2:37 p.m. PDT on Fox Sports 1.


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