SAN FRANCISCO — It was the same story, just with a slight twist on the ending.
This time, the Giants threatened late, loading the bases and scoring a run. But once again, for the 10th time in 12 games since the All-Star break, they took a loss. After a 1-7 road trip, they have lost three of four back at home. For most of Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Nationals, AT&T Park was rather lifeless.
That changed in the ninth when Jonathan Papelbon, who has the Nationals even more desperate for a late-inning arm than the Giants, put two on with one out in a three-run game. Oliver Perez loaded the bases and an error scored a run and kept them packed. But Denard Span struck out against his old team and Angel Pagan swung through the final pitch of the night.
“We did such a good job in the ninth battling back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We could have used a big hit there … We dodged a lot of bullets and just couldn’t quite finish it. It would have done a lot for the club.”
The Giants went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. On the other side, the Nationals got a series of two-out, two-strike singles to push Johnny Cueto’s pitch count and take a 3-0 lead.
“Gosh, he got two outs and two strikes on three hitters and they all found a way to get hits,” Bochy said.
Cueto settled in after that, but the damage was done. Tanner Roark allowed just four hits and the struggling Nationals bullpen bent but did not break. Cueto said he just had “a bad inning.”
“I was trying to get outs, but unfortunately, nothing went my way,” he said.
Bochy hoped that Joe Panik’s return would provide a spark, but the top three in the new-look order went 0-for-13. The hope now is that others can provide a needed jolt. Hunter Pence should be back Saturday. Before that, Eduardo Nunez is expected to report Friday.
Nunez was traded to the Giants before Thursday’s game in exchange for Adalberto Mejia. He is a year younger than Cueto and also from the Dominican Republic, but the two have not crossed paths often.
“I don’t know anything,” Cueto said, smiling. “I know he’s Dominican.”
All the Giants care about is the fact that Nunez is an All-Star-caliber hitter. After the way the past two weeks have gone, that’s exactly what they need.