SAN FRANCISCO - In a three-game series against the Giants, the Nationals got 20 innings out of their starting pitchers, who allowed a combined three runs on 13 hits. They won one of the three games.
And in both of the losses, they walked away with the same questions about their bullpen.
The culprit Wednesday afternoon was Sean Burnett, who allowed a pair of runs on three hits in the eighth inning of a 3-1 loss to the Giants, breaking a tie game and eventually costing the Nationals a win on a day where Yunesky Maya posted a quality start for the first time in the majors. Manager Jim Riggleman brought in Burnett for the seventh inning, removing Maya after he'd thrown just 67 pitches in six innings because Maya hadn't pitched deeper in a game than the sixth inning in the majors. Burnett gave up two hits, and Brandon Crawford, the only left-hander he faced, hit a rocket of a triple that scored the go-ahead run with two outs.
"It stinks. I'm giving away games," Burnett said. "My team's playing their butts off against good pitchers, and they're battling. I come in the game, and I just give it away. I feel like I have to apologize to my teammates every outing. I just cost them ballgames every time I get out there."
Burnett, who gave up a run on Monday night after blowing a lead on Sunday, had allowed three of four inherited runners to score in his last two appearances. He got to start the seventh inning on Wednesday; Riggleman said he would have pulled Maya if the starter had put a man on base in the seventh, and preferred to let Burnett work with the bases empty. It still didn't matter.
"Sean's going through one of those things where it just seems, by everybody's account, he's throwing the ball very well," Riggleman said. "Nothing is going right for him. ... He's the guy I wanted out there - two outs, Crawford up, left-on-left and he hung him the breaking ball. I have great confidence in Sean. I realize what Sean has done for this ballclub last year and earlier this year. We've just got to remain confident in his ability. He's throwing the ball good. He's just not getting good results."
The Nationals are now 3-4 on their 11-game road trip, having split one series and lost another they should have won. They'll catch an underwhelming Padres team this weekend, but they'd need to take three of four to come away with a winning road trip.