SAN FRANCISCO — There was nothing the Giants could do, no arms they could throw out on the mound, that could stop the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
In a 14-4 loss, Alex Wood delivered one of the Giants’ better pitching performances of the night, despite becoming only their second starter all season to allow five runs in an outing. When Wood left after five innings, the Nationals had totaled only five of their eventual 14 runs and eight of their eventual 22 hits.
If it felt like an off night for Wood, it didn’t get any better from there.
The Nationals tagged Wood for runs in each of the first three innings and chased him after five frames having allowed five runs, then rallied twice more off end-of-the-roster relievers, for four runs in the sixth, and another five in the eighth. After the Giants swept last weekend’s series by a margin of 24-6, the Nationals flipped the script in a big way in their first of three games at Oracle Park.
“I just didn’t command the ball as good as I have been,” Wood said. “Pretty much every ball they put in play was a hit. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. I think they came in with a little chip on their shoulder from last weekend in Washington and they played a good game.”
The Giants lineup was missing Joc Pederson (right groin strain), Brandon Belt (COVID), Mike Yastrzemski (COVID) and Steven Duggar (COVID/oblique strain) in addition to the trio of position players that were already injured to start the season, which led to starts for Luis Gonzalez, Jason Krizan and Jason Vosler, all of whom began the season with Triple-A Sacramento.
It was Vosler who delivered the bulk of the Giants’ offensive output with a two-run blast to center field in the second inning. Austin Slater, forced in to the lineup for a rare start against a right-handed pitcher, reached twice and scored both times, as the runner on base for Vosler’s first home run of the season and, in the fifth, on a sacrifice fly from Gonzalez after a leadoff single.
But that was all the Giants could muster against former teammate Aaron Sanchez, despite knocking him around for four runs in 4⅓ innings when they faced him last week. The Nationals also flipped the script on Wood, who limited them to two runs over five innings Saturday in Washington and held a 2.82 ERA in 14 career starts against them entering Friday.
“Ideally we’d have a guy like Brandon Belt right there in the middle of your lineup and ideally you’d have left-handed bats throughout,” Kapler said. “But we’re not living in a world right now that’s ideal. We understand that. We’re not the only team in baseball that’s struggling with an incomplete roster. … (We) recognize that we played a poor game today; we weren’t good today. But it’s one game in isolation.”
Last season, the Giants handed Wood the ball after a loss 13 times and won 12 of those starts. But after a loss Wednesday in the second of two games with the A’s and their dud Friday, the Giants have lost games on consecutive days for the first time this season (their only previous two-game losing streak was contained to a doubleheader).
The five runs allowed by Wood were tied for the most allowed by a Giants starter this season, matching Anthony DeSclafani’s five-inning, five-run performance last Thursday against the Mets. The Nationals’ 14 runs were the most by a Giants opponent this season and marked only the fourth time this season that an opponent has plated five or more in a game off Giants pitchers, who entered Friday night with the second-fewest runs allowed in the majors. Their 22 hits were the most a team has recorded against the Giants in a single game since 2014 and only the fourth time since 2000 that an opponent has had that many.
The Giants had won 11 straight games when scoring at least four runs and lost on only one other occasion, 6-5, on Opening Day.
Making matters worse, only six teams had scored fewer runs than the Nationals entering Friday night.
The Nationals got on the board with Juan Soto’s fifth home run of the season to straightaway center in the first inning, then rallied for two runs in each of the next two frames. Wood ‘s only clean inning was his last his, in the fifth, before he turned over a 5-3 deficit to the bullpen and the Nationals piled on nine more with rallies of four runs in the sixth and five runs in the eighth.
Kervin Castro was credited with all five runs scored by the Nationals in an eighth inning that made it 14-4, while Yunior Marte and Jarlin Garcia shared the four runs allowed in the sixth inning that made it 9-3.
A solo shot in the seventh inning from Joey Bart, which rocketed off his bat at 111.2 mph (the hardest-hit home run by a Giants player since Alex Dickerson in 2019), was the only respite from the onslaught by the Nationals. Bart’s 3-for-4 game snapped an 0-for-21 streak at the plate.
The rout gave the Nationals an opportunity to give the Giants a taste of their own unwritten rules medicine. Last weekend, a few Nationals — Victor Robles and Alcides Escobar, in particular — had a sour taste in their mouth after Thairo Estrada attempted to score from first base in the ninth inning despite holding a six-run lead.
So, when Robles came to the plate with a six-run lead in the seventh, of course he squared up to bunt. And of course he beat it out for a hit, though he amounted to one of 11 runners stranded on base by the Nationals.
Washington would only tack on more the next inning, anyway.
Soto got Wood’s night started on a poor note and started a back-and-forth in the process.