With their backs up against the wall, the best team in the National League's regular season played like it on Monday night. Facing a 0-2 series deficit on the road against the Giants' ace, the Nationals lived to play another day behind a late rally and more fantastic pitching.
After shutting out the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park last week in the Wildcard game, Madison Bumgarner got back on the hill with a chance to pitch his team into the NLCS. And Bumgarner looked the part for most of the afternoon.
The Giants' ace spun six shutout innings before things came undone in the seventh. And it was Bumgarner, as a fielder, who proved to derail Bumgarner, the pitcher.
The lefty gave up a single and walk to start the seventh, setting up Wilson Ramos in a bunt situation. The Nats' catcher laid down a decent sacrifice down the first base line, a ball that Bumgarner tried to make an unwarranted force out at third with.
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The lapse in judgement led to a throwing error that allowed both runners to score when the ball rolled into an occupied San Francisco bullpen. The Nationals added a third run in the inning to match their previous run total in the previous 33 innings of the series, which was all Doug Fister needed.
Making his third career start in an elimination situation, Fister was masterful once again for Washington. The crafty right-hander kept the Giants off-balance for seven innings, only surrendering four hits while striking out three. Fister's meticulousness with each and every pitch showed through in the elevated intensity of October baseball.
"Every pitch matters and that's the mindset I take from the time I wake up in the morning till the time I walk off the mound," Fister said in a post-game interview.
Tyler Clippard threw a perfect eighth in relief of Fister and then the Nationals tacked on one more insurance run in the next half inning.
Bryce home run shot
Bryce Harper clobbered his second deep home run of the series when he took a down and away fastball from Jean Machi to the right field bleachers. Harper's solo shot nearly soared the stands and got wet in McCovey Cove. Drew Storen allowed a meaningless run in the ninth to complete the win.
The loss snaps the Giants 10-game playoff win streak dating back to their World Series title in 2012. Game four will be Tuesday evening when Gio Gonzalez opposes Ryan Vogelsong.
It will be the final game in San Francisco of the series before potentially heading back to Washington for game five, if necessary.