SAN FRANCISCO - The Nationals were doing absolutely nothing at the plate for 3 2/3 innings tonight against Ty Blach. Of the first 12 batters who came to the plate against the Giants lefty, only one (Howie Kendrick) hit a ball out of the infield.
And then Ryan Zimmerman drew a two-out walk in the fourth, and Moisés Sierra followed with a single through the right side. And then Michael A. Taylor delivered the big blast this team has so desperately needed for days.
Taylor’s three-run, opposite-field homer off Blach was a much-needed jolt for a Nationals lineup that had scored only six runs in its previous 32 innings out here on the West Coast. And it brought them back from a three-run deficit to tie the Giants in the fourth, 3-3.
Tanner Roark had dug his team into that early hole, loading the bases in the bottom of the first and letting a run score on an 0-2 curveball in the dirt. Two innings later, Brandon Belt - who hit a far more meaningful homer off Roark in the 18th inning of Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series - launched a two-run blast to right off the right-hander.
Roark entered with a 6-0 record and 2.02 ERA in seven career regular-season appearances (four starts) against San Francisco, but he has struggled to command his curveball and put away hitters so far tonight.
Thanks to Taylor’s blast - only the seventh home run he’s ever hit to right field - Roark has new life and a chance to turn this game around in the Nationals’ favor.
Update: No inning has been as critical to the Nats lately as the sixth. It’s the inning in which either the starter hasn’t been able to finish his night on a high note or a middle reliever hasn’t been able to do his job. And the sixth inning struck again tonight. Roark took the mound at 95 pitches in a tie game, needing to get three more outs and get the game to the big three in the back of the bullpen. But after recording two quick outs, he hung a first-pitch changeup to Mac Williamson, who launched it to straightaway center field. Just like that, the Nats trail 4-3 and now need to rally against the Giants bullpen.
Update II: The Nats gave themselves a chance in the eighth when Kendrick ripped a one-out double to the gap in left-center off Sam Dyson. Unfortunately, that simply allowed Bruce Bochy to intentionally walk Bryce Harper and pitch to Zimmerman ... who grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw to kill that rally. The Nats went down quietly in the ninth and so they have fallen 4-3 and dropped their fourth straight game to fall to 10-14 on the season. They’ll try to salvage the series with Max Scherzer on the mound Wednesday afternoon.