Wheezing Giants silenced by Nationals’ triple play

Brandon Crawford entered the batter’s box in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, Giants down 4-1. Hopes were high; this was it, the table was set for San Francisco’s big-hit spark.

Brandon Crawford hit a line drive to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who forced a straying Buster Posey out at first and hurled it to third base to catch Denard Span making a run for home plate.

In a slow, dizzy moment, the team and crowd realized what they’d just witnessed: the Giants (59-44) just hit into a triple play, the first 3-3-5 in MLB history and the first at AT&T Park. Rock bottom. The Giants lost another game, 4-1, to the Washington Nationals (61-42).

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

If there were ever a moment capable of capturing how deep a lull these Giants are in, a historic triple play on a well-hit ball just about sums it up, said Jeff Samardzija:

“It’s not like it was a ground ball to third base. He hit it on the screws.”

Denard Span thought Crawford’s ball short-hopped prompting his ill-fated trip home. Crawford thought he had at least one run out of it, but watched in a daze as Posey stood frozen at first, then suddenly he was walking back to the dugout:

“I wasn’t expecting the out at third.”

It was a break all three guys on base and the rest of the dugout desperately wanted to see play out, said Bruce Bochy:

“It kind is, when you get in these funks, what can go wrong goes wrong.”

The ninth inning played out in a post-triple-play hazy daze. Gregor Blanco and Trevor Brown patched together two out singles and Eduardo Nunez, in his first at-bat as a Giant, struck out to end the threat. A rotten cherry atop the pile of garbage. Bochy had to credit his team’s fight, echoing a message he’s repeated throughout this rough patch:

“You got to be big boys. Put your big boy pants on, be ready to go tomorrow and keep fighting.”

So if this is rock bottom, the Giants have no where to go but up, right?

The game up until that point didn’t feel like rock bottom, it played out like any other second-half-Giants loss. The offense flatlined, unable to mask Samardzija’s imperfect start.

Samardzija (L, 9-7, 4.35 ERA) gave up all four runs on seven hits in seven innings of work. He kept most of his fastballs down, but left a few up to big hitters like Daniel Murphy, who hit an RBI triple to put the Nats up 3-1. Ben Revere, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon tallied those three other timely hits the Giants so envy.

The Giants looked alive for only a brief moment, when Gregor Blanco hit an 0-2 RBI single in the second inning off Nats starter Max Scherzer (W, 11-6, 2.85 ERA) to put the Giants on the board first.

Granted, Scherzer is a tough pitcher to use as a funk-breaker, said Bochy:

“It’s a tough go when you go against him. We did a good job of not letting the game get away from us.”

The Giants faced their best bet at a comeback against the Nats’ bullpen. Oliver Perez gave up consecutive hits to Span and Pagan to lead off that eighth inning and Blake Treinen walked Posey to load the bases.

Crawford thought lefty Sammy Solis‘ 0-1 pitch looked good enough, and it almost was. The triple play was a gut-wrencher, but the Giants feel like they’re close to breaking free, said Samardzija:

“We’re right there, we’re in all these games.”

Added Bochy:

“They’ll be fine. We’ll keep grinding through this thing and we’ll get out if it.”

They better hurry. The Dodgers (58-45) are creeping steadily closer to their once-untouchable spot in first place. Los Angeles’ win over Arizona puts them one game behind in the NL West.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.