Rewind: Giants vs. Nationals, Game #2

After winning five straight, the Giants have now dropped three in a row. Benitez's second straight blown save has the Giants reeling and hoping to avoid a sweep at the hands of the suddenly hot Nationals.

Baseball is a game of streaks, and no team better understands that right now than the Giants. San Francisco has followed up a five game winning streak by losing its next three, none more frustrating than Wednesday's effort, which saw them blow a ninth inning lead for the second time in three games. Entering Wednesday's game, the Giants were 40-4 when leading after eight innings this season. After Armando Benitez's sixth blown save of the year, they are now 40-5.

Noah Lowry's solid effort was wasted, as he allowed just two runs (none earned) over six innings in the no-decision. He didn't allow a run to cross the plate until the bottom of the third, when Ryan Zimmerman doubled home Alfonso Soriano. Soriano was actually picked off earlier in the inning, but Ray Durham's errant throw allowed him to reach second. Later in the inning, Austin Kearns singled in Zimmerman to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

The Giants struck right back in the top of the fourth, when Durham atoned his defensive miscue by doubling in Shea Hillenbrand. The Giants wouldn't get to Nationals starter Pedro Astacio again until the seventh inning, with a little help from some poor glovework by Washington this time. After Todd Greene reached on Marlon Anderson's fielding error, pinch-hitter Todd Linden doubled to deep right to knock Astacio out of the game. The National's starter finished with a solid pitching line that consisted of him allowing three runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings. Randy Winn promptly singled off reliever Mike Stanton to plate both of the baserunners, which made the score 3-2 Giants.

Brian Wilson entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and delivered an eventful, yet scoreless inning. He allowed two hits and a walk but two crucial pop outs allowed him to get out of the inning unscathed. Steve Kline then delivered a 1-2-3 perfect eighth inning, which meant San Francisco entered the ninth holding onto the one-run lead.

Enter Armando Benitez, who started the frame off with a walk. After a strike out, Felipe Lopez hit a grounder to Durham, who misplayed the ball that could have resulted in a game-ending double play. Instead, it was ruled a hit, and runners were on first and second with just one out. Ryan Zimmerman then singled in the tying run, followed by a Nick Johnson walk. Austin Kearns capped the two-run, ninth inning comeback by hitting a sacrifice fly to end the game.

While Benitez deserves most of the blame, it certainly was a rough night for Durham on defense. First he allowed two unearned runs to score in the third with his throwing error, and then his ninth inning misplay should have resulted in at least one out. Still, it's hard to get down on Durham, who has been the Giants' best player over the last month. In fact, he's been one of baseball's best players during that time, which has seen him belt 11 homers and 30 RBI. Bottom line, this was a game that San Francisco should have probably won, and if the team wants to be playoff bound, they certainly need to play better than this.

Game Notes: Omar Vizquel left in the fifth inning with a bruised right foot. The team said X-rays showed nothing was broken, and he was listed as day-to-day... Moises Alou (hamstring) was limited to pinch-hitting duty for the third straight game.

SFDugout's Player of the Game: Noah Lowry gets the nod for not giving up a single earned run. After taking a shutout into the ninth inning in his last start and giving a solid effort Wednesday, Lowry seems to be rounding into form.



Dalton can be reached at seven3d@aol.com for any complaints, questions or preferably, compliments.

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