Nationals drop finale to Giants 3-1 to split weekend series

SAN FRANCISCO - A pair of throwing errors and some sloppy baserunning cost the Nationals this afternoon, and a lack of offense kept them from mounting a rally that would have been necessary to avoid a 3-1 loss to the Giants.

Two of San Francisco’s runs came via errors by Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon, mistakes that prevented Gio Gonzalez from pitching his way out of jams. Rendon’s subsequent baserunning blunder also put a halt to what might have been a game-tying rally by a Nationals lineup that didn’t have many scoring opportunities in its series finale at AT&T Park.

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After winning the first two games of this series, the Nationals dropped both games over the weekend, settling for a four-game split with the National League West leaders. They’re 3-3 on this three-city road trip, which wraps up in Arizona.

Gonzalez continued his recent upswing with another quality start, allowing two runs (one earned) over six innings. The left-hander deserved better than that. Both runs he surrendered came via throwing errors by the Nationals’ defense.

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the third, Gonzalez got Angel Pagan to hit a sharp grounder to second, a tailor-made double play ball. But Turner’s flip to Danny Espinosa was wild, leaving everybody safe and giving the Giants a 1-0 lead.

Two innings later, Gonzalez appeared to pitch his way out of a jam when he got Hunter Pence to ground to third with two outs and a man on second. But Rendon’s throw across the diamond skipped past Ryan Zimmerman, bringing another run home and putting San Francisco up 2-0.

The Nationals had zero hits to that point in the game, an odd development considering Matt Cain was laboring on the mound. The veteran Giants starter walked four and hit a batter through five innings, racking up a pitch count of 93.

That, plus Cain’s injury history, prompted San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy to pull his starter after five and turn the prospective no-hitter over to his bullpen.

The Nats immediately dashed any hope of history when Bryce Harper led off the sixth with a single off George Kontos. Moments later, Harper scored on Rendon’s double to right-center, trimming the lead to 2-1. But poor baserunning by Rendon - he failed to advance from second on Ryan Zimmerman’s line drive single to left, then was thrown out at third when Mac Williamson dropped a pop-up but still threw to the bag in time - cost the Nationals a shot at tying the game.

The Giants then added an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Matt Belisle, leaving the Nationals in the unenviable position of needing a late rally, one they did not have in them.

The Nats could only use Daniel Murphy in a limited role, as the All-Star second baseman is still recovering from tightness in his left leg, which he aggravated while legging out a triple in Friday night’s win. Murphy struck out swinging in a pinch-hit at-bat to end the game.

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