Duke done in the fourth (updated again)

Making his first big league start since July 10, 2011, Zach Duke could go just 3 1/3 innings tonight, and as we go to the fifth inning, Duke and the Nationals trail the Giants 5-0.

Duke didn’t pitch incredibly poorly tonight, allowing just one extra-base hit in his spot start, but the Giants just base-hit him to death.

They put up seven hits on Duke, knocking the veteran left-hander from the game. Craig Stammen came in to relieve Duke and allowed three runs (two of which were charged to Duke) before moving this game to the fifth.

Duke’s fastball location wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t fooling anyone with his off-speed stuff. When your fastball is sitting in the mid- to upper-80s and your breaking pitches aren’t getting you easy strikes, you’ll have trouble missing many bats.

Manager Davey Johnson jokes about how he can tend to have a quick hook with his starters, but with his team struggling to score runs, Johnson went to the ‘pen pretty early today. Duke had runners at the corners in the fourth, but he’d thrown just 58 pitches.

Still, Johnson wanted to try and nip the Giants’ offensive momentum in the bud. Didn’t work out, however, as Stammen gave up the three runs on two hits.

Duke did notch the Nats’ first hit of the game with two outs in the third. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman have also notched hits tonight, but the Nats have gotten just one runner into scoring position and failed to capitalize on that opportunity.

Regardless of how Stammen pitches over the next few innings, he’s going to have to keep throwing. With Duke and Stammen both in this game before the fifth, the Nationals don’t have any long relievers left in their bullpen and they’ll need Stammen to eat innings and keep the ‘pen as fresh as possible for tomorrow.

The Nats’ largest comeback in a victory this season was two runs.

They trail by five with just five innings remaining tonight.

Update: It’s now 6-0 Giants going to the sixth after Brandon Belt’s homer to right. And the numbers continue to get uglier for the Nationals.

They’ve now been outscored 19-4 and out-hit 28-13 in their last 14 innings.

Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong has needed to leave the game after getting hit on the hand while swinging at a Stammen running two-seam fastball. As a result, San Francisco has needed to go to the ‘pen here in the sixth.

Lately, it hasn’t really mattered much who has been pitching; the Nats just haven’t produced much at the plate. We’ll see if a new face - and arm - on the mound for the Giants changes anything for the Nationals tonight.

Update II: The Nationals have three hits through seven innings tonight. One of those three hits came from a pitcher.

It’s been - yet again - a whole lot of nothing from the Nats offensively tonight. They’ve gone 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, but when you only give yourselves four shots with runners in scoring position, you’re not doing yourselves any favors.

It’s still 6-0 in the bottom of the seventh. Stammen gave the Nats 2 2/3 big innings of relief, and even though it came in a lopsided game, his effort should allow Johnson to not have to dip too deep into his bullpen the rest of the way out tonight.

Update III: Make it 8-0 Giants. Henry Rodriguez allowed two hits and two walks in the seventh inning, and a bloop single to center off the bat of Angel Pagan brought in two more San Francisco runs.

Back-to-back ugly nights for the Nationals out west.

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