San Francisco Giants 10, Nats 5

And yet that game started with such promise. The Nats scored five runs through the first four innings, knocked out San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez and looked in control of Saturday night’s game at Nationals Park. Read our game story here about what went wrong in the 10-5 loss. You can certainly pin a lot of it on reliever Tyler Clippard, who has hit a rough patch recently. He gave up a homer, two walks and a single and just didn’t look himself. Then Doug Slaten threw some gasoline on the fire by allowing a two-run double. Just like that a 5-4 game was 8-5 in favor of the Giants and that was that.

No question the Nats need to find a way to get Clippard going again. If his issues aren’t mechanical or related to his heavy workload – and manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty say they are not – then another answer must be found. The Nats just rely on Clippard, rookie Drew Storen and closer Matt Capps too much to have one of that trio crash and burn.

“I’m not going to say if it’s a perfect time or not,” McCatty said of the upcoming All-Star break giving Clippard a chance to get away from the game for a few days. “If he doesn’t pitch [Sunday] now he goes home and sits on it for five days and thinks about it. I know Clipp is down on himself. It would be great, too, if it wasn’t the break and we could get him right back in there. A lot of times the best thing you can do for a guy that’s struggling is throw him back in the next day.” 

Nats starter Craig Stammen did better than his last outing on July 4 against the Mets. That was a 3 1/3-inning, seven-run disaster. Saturday, Stammen gave up three runs in the second inning – giving away leads has been an issue all season for him – but recovered to retire 10 of the next 11 San Francisco batters. He left with a run in and a runner at second base in the sixth, but Sean Burnett came on to limit the damage in that frame. In all, Stammen went 5 1/3 innings with six hits and two walks allowed. He struck out two batters and also smoked an RBI double to left in the fourth inning to help his own cause. Not a bad night. But not exactly what he was hoping for, either.

“I might be trying too hard," Stammen admitted. “Because I had two outs and nobody on [in the second inning] and then that happened. So who knows what it is? Luck of the draw, maybe.”

Some non-big-league news after the game: According to general manager Mike Rizzo, the team will shut down rehabbing catcher Jesus Flores (shoulder surgery), who had been in the midst of a throwing program at the organization’s spring-training facility in Viera, Fla. But lingering pain led to another MRI – an ominous sign for a player who has been in pain since taking a foul ball off the shoulder in a May 9, 2009 game at Arizona. Everything from the latest MRI came back clean, but the team is taking no chances. Flores will resume the throwing program from where he left off after three days of inactivity.


Nats Notes

» The Nats also promoted outfielder Justin Maxwell from Triple-A Syracuse to replace starter Luis Atilano, who was sent down to get a start in during the long All-Star break. Maxwell started in center to give Nyjer Morgan a day off. Maxwell was 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored against the Giants.

» Ryan Zimmerman recorded his 23rd multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. Since July 4 Zimmerman is 11-for-23 with three doubles, three homers, eight RBI and four runs scored.

» Josh Willingham batted 2-for-3 after a day off on Friday. Over his last 18 games he is 22-for-64 (.328 batting average) with five doubles, a triple, three homers and six RBI. He’s also walked 10 times.

» Michael Morse blasted his fourth home run of the season and also doubled before leaving the game in the sixth inning for a pinch runner.

» Craig Stammen didn’t give up a run in the first inning. And that was cause for celebration. Washington starters had given up at least one first-inning run in each of the last nine games.

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