San Francisco Giants

Giants knock another Nationals starter out early in 12-6 win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy didn’t see this coming. The Giants’ manager is never one to sell his players short, but all one had to do was look at a lineup that’s missing three of its regulars, then glance at the starting pitchers the Washington Nationals were trotting out in the first three games of this series at AT&T Park, and envision the Giants having to scratch and claw for offense all weekend long.

Instead, for the second consecutive night Saturday, they ripped it off in chunks in a 12-6 win. They knocked left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who hadn’t lost since June 15, around for six runs in the third inning. The Nationals have started Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gonzalez in this series. The Giants have scored a collective 14 runs against them in 11 2/3 innings.

"You don’t expect to score those kinds of runs off those guys," Bochy said on Saturday night. "But they’re human, they don’t always have their best stuff or command. We’ve seen it on this side -- that’s why this is a hard game to figure sometimes.

"But I give my hitters credit. They’re not missing pitches when they get them. And when you’re facing good pitching, that’s what it takes."

The top of the lineup -- the part hardest-hit by injuries to Nori Aoki and Joe Panik -- was the catalyst again, with Gregor Blanco scoring three runs and Matt Duffy driving in four. Bochy, though, said "one of the biggest at-bats all day" came from an unlikely source -- starting pitcher Jake Peavy.

The Giants trailed 2-0 in the third when Peavy came up with two runners on and nobody out. He failed to execute a sacrifice bunt and fell behind 1-2 before working a walk from Gonzalez to load the bases. Blanco followed with an RBI single, Duffy cleared the bases with a double and Brandon Belt singled home Duffy to start the rout.

"Changed the game, really," Bochy said of Peavy’s at-bat. "He competes up there. I’m not going to say he’s a good hitter -- but he battles and laid off some good pitches."

It was the first walk Peavy has drawn since 2011 with the Chicago White Sox and he was asked where it ranks among his better career at-bats.

"Shoot, I don’t know," Peavy said, grinning. "Look, it was fun to keep the line moving."

But on a night where he didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, Peavy acknowledged it was "real satisfying" to contribute to the offensive barrage. Peavy allowed five runs in a regular season start for the first time in Giants uniform. Yet as with Matt Cain’s rocky outing Friday night, the offense more than compensated.

Every Giants starter scored a run except for Hunter Pence and six drove in at least one. Recent call-up Kelby Tomlinson tripled to right-center to start the third-inning rally, and later added a two-run double after Brandon Crawford was intentionally walked ahead of him with a runner on and two outs.

"It’s always a lot of fun whenever you put a big inning together," Tomlinson said. "When you can be a part of it and start it, it just adds to it."

Duffy stayed back on a big-breaking curveball from Gonzalez for his three-run double in the third. In the eighth, he pounced on a first-pitch 96 mph fastball from Drew Storen for a double to deep left-center that scored Blanco. He said didn’t want to call the Giants’ hit parade against the vaunted Nationals pitching staff "surprising, because I think we have confidence in ourselves to be able to put up numbers against those guys.

"I don’t try to put anybody on a pedestal, really," Duffy said. "There’s a mutual respect there. At the same time, you’re not going to roll over because there’s a good guy on the mound, or because of his name. You respect what he can do, and you still go up there and try to give your best at-bat."

Bochy said he’s seeing that throughout the lineup -- albeit one that’s a little bit patched together with the Giants’ absences.

"Bats have come alive," Bochy said. "We’re missing some bats, so what needs to happen is guys pick it up -- guys that get a chance, like Tomlinson, to help out. And that’s what’s happened."

* Duffy has arguably been the offensive star of this series. He’s 6-for-12 with a homer, three doubles and eight RBIs in the three games, raising his season RBI total to 59, which is second-most among all major-league rookies behind Chicago’s Kris Bryant. Not very long ago, N.L. Rookie of the Year was thought to be a two-man race between Bryant and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson. It’s nearly impossible to view it that way now.

Duffy raised his average to .310 on Saturday night, equaling his high-water mark for the season (excluding where he was after the first three games in April). He finished July 1 batting .300, and the average has dipped no lower than .283 since then -- in mid-July -- before it quickly rose again.

"He’s got that type of swing where he’s going to be consistent," Bochy said. "He’s a guy that can do some things, too, to get his base hits -- bunt, use the whole field. He’s going to be a consistent hitter with that swing and balance."

It’s that consistency that allowed Duffy to hit .332 last year at Double-A Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. And Tomlinson, also a Flying Squirrel at that time, said fans in San Francisco are simply seeing what Duffy was doing in Richmond.

"Exactly what he did last year," Tomlinson said. "He does a great of that, just competing.

"I wish my swing was more like his. But we’re a little bit different in that area. But if I can compete the same way, we can still have success the same way."

* Tomlinson would have been happy, then, with the compliment Peavy paid him after Saturday’s game.

"He’s a Matt Duffy-ish type player," Peavy said. "That tool set. He plays our style of baseball and expects to contribute. He doesn’t shy away from the moment."

The moment presented itself in the fifth inning Saturday, when Washington intentionally walked Crawford to bring up Tomlinson with two on. Tomlinson said it wasn’t the first time the hitter ahead of him has been walked, but that it hasn’t happened often. He laced a line drive just inside the left-field line to score both runners.

"I treat it just like any other at-bat," he said. "Try to get a good pitch to hit, try to know what he’s going to do to me."

Bochy said he expected the Nationals to walk Crawford "with a young kid coming up." He lauded Tomlinson with a good all-around game. Tomlinson showed his speed on the third-inning triple in to the right-center field gap, and hung in against a charging Bryce Harper to turn a double play in the in the fifth.

"Nice day by him," Bochy said. "Kid really came through."

* Gregor Blanco the past two nights: 6-for-10, five runs, two steals, three RBIs. He had three singles Saturday night and is now batting .397 out of the leadoff spot this season.

"You can’t say enough about what he’s been at the top of the order," Duffy said. "It’s like a broken record the last two nights: He’s on, then he’s in scoring position."

* Peavy’s line wasn’t great, but he was happy with one out he recorded in particular. The Nationals still led 2-0 in the top of the third when Brandon Belt dropped a catchable Ian Desmond fly ball in left field with two outs and a runner on.

Instead of being out of the inning, Peavy had men on second and third, with the Nationals threatening to break the game open. But he induced an inning-ending pop-up from Jayson Werth, and the Giants broke through in the bottom of the inning.

"I felt like that was a big out," Peavy said. "You want to pick your teammates up."

He was less happy with the pitch he threw to Desmond in the second inning that resulted in a monster home run to left field that bounced on the concourse beyond the bleachers, just in front of the Coke bottle slide. It was estimated by MLB Statcast at 477 feet, and drew comparisons to an Andres Galarraga blast in 2001 for the longest homer hit to that part of the park in an actual game.

"He ambushed him pretty good," Bochy said of Desmond. "Strong kid. I mean I’ve seen a couple (to that area) in batting practice, but that’s one of the longest ones I’ve seen."

"I knew he hit it a long way," Peavy said. "I couldn’t have made a worse pitch and that’s what guys do that are on championship-caliber clubs.

"But on a night when you couldn’t find any rhythm, couldn’t get any feel and really had to grind for every out, to come away with the victory on that night feels a lot better going home."

* Beyond that, Saturday night was mostly Giants, and now they will go for a four-game sweep Sunday behind ace Madison Bumgarner (13-6, 3.15). He’ll oppose Nationals right hander Joe Ross (3-4, 3.44). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.