The Nationals enter the All-Star break with a disappointing 6-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park.

Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez (6-5, 3.37 ERA) gave up five runs in the first three innings alone and Washington never recovered, leaving a combined 13 runners on base.

Travis Ishikawa batted 2-for-3 with three RBI for San Francisco (47-41). He had a two-run single in the first inning off Hernandez and a sacrifice fly in the third. Star rookie Buster Posey also drove in a pair of runs in the third inning with a triple. A base hit by Juan Uribe in the eighth off Nats reliever Drew Storen gave the Giants an insurance run.

Beanballs blogNats Postgame - 6-2 loss to Giants

“They made the necessary pitches and they rallied on us twice and took a nice lead,” said Nats manager Jim Riggleman. “It was kind of an uphill battle. But our guys got after it and grinded out at-bats. We just came up short each time.”

Washington (39-50) left the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings and stranded two more runners in the eighth. Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 2.57 ERA) pitched six quality innings for San Francisco, allowing seven hits and just one run. That came after he left the game when Cristian Guzman singled home Ian Desmond off Giants reliever Chris Ray. Later in the inning, Adam Dunn smacked an infield single off the leg of reliever Jeremy Affeldt for an RBI. But Sergio Romo struck out Josh Willingham and got Ivan Rodriguez to fly out to deep center with the bases loaded to keep the score at 5-2. San Francisco’s All-Star closer Brian Wilson recorded the final four outs to finish the Nats and earn his 23rd save. 

Hernandez admitted afterwards he didn’t feel like his body was responding the way it needed to. There was nothing physically wrong, he cautioned. But during a long baseball season days like that will happen to every big-league pitcher. His two walks in the first inning set the stage for San Francisco’s offense.

“[Hernandez] lives on the edges out there on the outer half [of the plate] and now and then coming in,” Riggleman said of his team’s best pitcher in 2010 until rookie Stephen Strasburg came up from Triple-A. “He’s going to be right there. It’s a very fine difference. But if he doesn’t get the calls then he gets behind in the count and there are base-on-balls. And if he does get the calls it’s hard on hitters. They have a tough time hitting those pitches.”

The Nats lost two of three to the Giants – a disappointing setback after winning two of three from the San Diego Padres earlier in the week. They finished a 10-game homestand at Nationals Park against the Giants, Padres and New York Mets at 5-5 and are now 6-6 over their last 12 games. That’s some welcome stability considering the team went 13-29 between May 14 and June 28. But there is still much ground to make up if Washington wants to make a run at .500 in the second half of the season.

“It should leave a sour taste,” Riggleman said of his team’s latest loss. “The upside is that we played another clean game, lots of good at-bats ... . It’s an indication that we were battling, forced their closer into the game in the eighth. There were a lot of subtle little things there that say we played good baseball. But you hate to play good baseball and come up short.”