“That’s just the way this game works sometimes,” Nationals rookie outfielder Tyler Moore said. “It’s crazy. We scored 14 last night, and tonight they shut us down. We’ll come back tomorrow with a positive attitude and try to win a series.”
The Nationals’ bullpen imploded in a four-run eighth to seal the result. For most of the night, Bumgarner outdueled Jordan Zimmermann, who pitched around trouble but lasted 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs while throwing 94 pitches.
The Nationals had won 11 of 13, and now they will have to win Wednesday to claim the series from the Giants, a team they had previously pulverized in all four meetings this season. Because the Atlanta Braves won before the first pitch at chilly AT&T Park, the Nationals’ lead in the NL East decreased to 4 ½ games.
Right fielder Jayson Werth returned to the Nationals’ lineup on the same day he received an MRI exam on the sore right ankle that forced him out of the lineup Tuesday night. Werth did not ease back into the action. He went 1 for 3 with a triple and fielded about a dozen balls in right field, and, afterward his ankle held up fine.
“It was good,” Werth said. “It was good. Like I told you last night, I kind of expected that was going to be the way it was going to go: a little tender, a little sore, but playable. I think it should be fine. It was pretty standard.”
Michael Morse, whose swollen thumb held him out Tuesday, vowed afterward that he’ll be coming back to face Tim Lincecum in the series finale. “I’m playing tomorrow,” he said.
Zimmermann was not himself, but still quite good. Bumgarner, a sidewinder who spreads his arms like pterodactyl during his windup, was exquisite. He fired darting cutters to right-handers, fooled lefties with wipeout sliders and spotted fastballs on the plate’s edges. Bumgarner allowed the Nationals five hits, walking one while striking out six. The Nationals did not push a runner past second base until the seventh inning, and the rallies they mounted withered on the stalk.
Manager Davey Johnson saw the Nationals’ best chance to beat Bumgarner was getting him out of the game. He sensed Giants Manager Bruce Bochy would have gone to his closer, Sergio Romo, in the ninth inning if they held the deficit at 2-1 in the eighth inning.