Belt, Williamson, Giants swat away Nats for third-straight win

For the better part of five innings Tuesday night at AT&T Park, Washington was Blach-ed. And with a little help from the blazing bats of Brandon Belt and Mac WilliamsonTy Blach and the Giants handed the struggling Nationals a fourth-straight loss.

For the second night in a row, San Francisco pitching kept the Nats (10-14) muffled excepting one consequential swing of the bat by Michael Taylor. But with the Giants (11-12) suddenly boasting a pair of power bats of their own, Washington’s lone fruitful swing wasn’t enough for Tanner Roark (L, 1-2, 3.77 ERA) to put the home nine away.

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

After giving up a line-drive single to Howie Kendrick in the first, Blach (ND 1-3, 4.31) sent 10 straight Nats packing, including three strikeouts and three groundouts that he handled himself — 10 total ground-ball outs for the game. Washington achieved mostly weak contact against Blach, who gave up just four hits and three runs in his five innings of work despite still recovering from a bout of food poisoning.

Skipper Bruce Bochy spoke highly of his lefty, especially given his condition:

“I know he gave up three, but you know he had food poisoning down in Anaheim and we had to IV him yesterday. I thought that was a really gutty effort that he gave us. [He] got through five innings there and he didn’t get the win, but boy he really gutted it out tonight.”

Blach said that he’s down eight or nine pounds since becoming ill, but insisted that it was not a factor in his performance:

“I didn’t feel like it affected me at all. I felt strong, I felt like the ball was coming out good, I felt like I was able to execute all my pitches, so [the food poisoning] didn’t bother me at all.”

The Giants offense had its starter’s back early, employing the small-ball attack to score in the first.

Joe Panik singled with one out and moved to second, one batter later, on a Buster Posey single. Belt then took a walk to load the bases and Panik proceeded to score on a wild pitch while Evan Longoria was at the dish. San Francisco failed to further cash in during the opening frame, but it let Blach settle in with an early lead.

Belt’s walk-up music this season is Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” which is a notion that likely has crossed the minds of teams the Giants have faced lately. While the “Belt Wars” have fomented on Twitter for years, those Giants fans who write dissertations on his “droopy shoulders” and his streaky offense haven’t had much ground to stand on in 2018.

In the third Panik opened the inning with another single and Belt hit a towering home run (6) to right field, bringing the lead to 3-0 and making the first baseman San Francisco’s home run leader. He went 1-for-3 with a walk bringing his average up to .292 and on-base percentage to .419.

The Nats were spurred to fight back in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman took a two out-walk and Moisés Sierra singled to right to bring Taylor to the plate. Taylor liked the third pitch he saw, a 90-mph fastball that he launched the other way over the right field wall at the Levi’s Landing to tie the game up, 3-3.

Blach credited Taylor with making a lot of a good pitch:

“We were trying to go down and away right there and that’s pretty much right where I threw it. He’s just a strong kid who put a good swing on the ball and hit [it] to a spot that not many people hit it to as a right-handed hitter — kudos to him.”

With the score tied in the sixth inning Williamson decided to show off some more shaft, hitting a monster home run (3) on a 74-mph Roark curveball that he parked over the center field wall to the left of the 399-foot mark giving the Giants the 4-3 the lead. It was his third bomb since being called up just four days ago and his manager and teammates had nothing but praise for the 28-year-old outfielder as he finally seems to be coming into his own.

Said Bochy:

“I love his mechanics now. [It’s] something that we had talked about last year when he went down and we’ve talked about it so many times, and he took it upon himself to do something, and tweak his swing a little bit. Now his confidence is so high. … I think you’re looking at a guy with plus-plus power. When he gets the barrel on it and it’s in the air, it doesn’t matter what park you’re in, and he showed that last night and showed it again tonight.”

Blach was also beyond thrilled for Williamson:

“Mac and I have been as close as could be since we got drafted in 2012. We’ve pretty much been everywhere together and roommates in several different places, so it’s always fun when we get to pick each other up. He’s always seemed to come through big when I’m on the mound, so it’s fun having him out here and seeing him do this well.”

Naturally, all Williamson wanted to do was talk about what a great job his teammates are doing. He praised Blach for his strong five innings, and the bullpen, especially Reyes Moronta (W, 1-0, 0.64 ERA), for its staunch protection of starters like Blach and Jeff Samardzija. Moronta pitched solidly though the sixth and seventh innings giving up just one hit in his two scoreless innings.

Williamson refused to take full credit for Tuesday’s win or any other since he was called back up to the big leagues, though the team is 4-1 since he joined them in Anaheim Friday, and in the span of four games he’s halfway to catching up to Belt in the home run department.

He said:

“It feels good to be a part of the team. … I think that, as a team, we’ve put across runs. I mean, Belt had a huge two-run homer for us tonight — [if] he doesn’t hit that ball my home run doesn’t mean anything. So I think that everybody’s doing their job, getting runners over, getting ’em in, [getting] big hits when we needed ’em and the [way our] pitchers are throwing right now.”

The Giants bullpen was leakproof. After Moronta finished the seventh Sam Dyson put up a zero in the eight, allowing Hunter Strickland (S, 2, 1.64 ERA) to come in and scoop up the save without incident. Giant relievers limited the Nats to just two hits, and an intentional walk of Bryce Harper.

Up Next:

Wednesday’s series closer starts at 12:45 p.m. and Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is set to toe the rubber against right-handed ace Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA). San Francisco will look to sweep a series of more than two games for the first time since taking three straight from the Pirates, June 30-July 2, 2017.

Notes:

The Nationals loss of game two in the three-game series with San Francisco increases their losing streak to four games, while the Giants are on the longest winning streak of the young 2018 season with three in a row. … Attempting to flag down a foul pop from Bryce Harper in the fifth inning, Mac Williamson stumbled over the home bullpen mound and crashed headlong into the side wall near the Giants’ bullpen. He remained in the game to hit the game-winning homer in the sixth, but was lifted for Gorkys Hernández‘s defense in the ninth. He is expected to play in Wednesday’s series finale.


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.