By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO — The single-minded focus and intensity demanded by the fully loaded National League post-season race came home to San Francisco Monday night and got misdirected and lost in the meandering starting appearance put forth by Jeff Samardzija.
Not good. For the Giants, or the playoff chase.
For one, the Giants were backs to the wall, back to .500 and still under the break even line at home where the Oracle Park fans have waited patiently for benefits of a hot July to translate into a watchable product. If any night would conjure the team’s best this was it. Except it wasn’t.
Those fans are still waiting patiently. With Samardzija drowning in quick (slow) sand, the Giants went meekly to the Nationals, 4-0.
Anthony Rendon singled in a run, and Matt Adams doubled home Adam Eaton in the fifth to back the pitching of Erik Fedde, who was facing the Giants for the first time. Fedde pitched six innings, scattering five singles and a double while walking none, and picked up his second win of the season.
Fedde was supposed to be fallible. Instead he pitched six innings without allowing a run for the first time in his major league career.
“The ball was down,” manager Dave Martinez said of Fedde. “He’s really good when he’s down. He’s really effective.”
While Fedde cruised through six frames needing just 75 pitches, Samardzija couldn’t get his pitches over the plate in what seemed like an endless stream of three-ball counts. The patient approach suits the Nationals on most nights, and this was no different. Their breakthrough wasn’t immediate, but they were ready when it materialized.
“They made me work, slider wasn’t very good today,” Samardzija said. “They fouled off a lot of pitches so the pitch count got a little high. That was the story.”
Samardzija hasn’t enjoyed much success facing the Nats, last beating them in 2013. He hasn’t pitched well at home this season either, so his outing was an intersection of the two. But his pitch count was a whole different animal; 83 pitches through three innings, and 98 through four when his outing ended. Samardzija allowed just three hits, but it felt much larger.
The Giants have dropped seven of 11, and saw the streaking Mets pass them in the standings with a doubheader sweep. While the out of town scoreboard has been kind to the Giants the last two weeks, they haven’t taken advantage. On Monday, the scoreboard was mean, and the Giants fell 3 1/2 games behind the wild card leaders for the first time in two weeks.
While Samardzija didn’t aid his team on the mound, he did provide wisdom.
“To stay that hot (continually) for three months would be a pretty remarkable thing,” he said. “We just need to keep our heads on straight.”
The Giants get a second shot at the Nationals Tuesday with Connor Menez to be promoted from Triple-A Sacramento to make the start. He’ll be opposed by Washington’s Joe Ross.