WASHINGTON – On the day they learned they'd be without their top player, injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, for another six weeks or so, the Washington Nationals showed exactly how much he's missed.
Thanks to wild pitching by the San Francisco Giants, the Nationals kept getting runners on via walk or hit-by-pitch. Indeed, the Nationals loaded the bases in three innings. But Washington simply could not get a big hit and somehow lost to the World Series champions 2-1 Saturday, with John Lannan (2-3) walking pinch hitter Aubrey Huff to push across the go-ahead run.
"There's a lot of irritated people in that clubhouse right now that we didn't win that ballgame," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said, "and that's the way it's supposed to be."
Ah, and don't forget that Sanchez also walked someone else and mixed in a wild pitch, reliever Jeremy Affeldt added yet another walk, and shortstop Mike Fontenot dropped a throw for an error.
Somehow, despite a total of nine walks and three hit batters, the Nationals managed to score only one run.
"We just couldn't quite get over the hump," Riggleman said.
According to STATS LLC, the Giants are the first team since 1955 to put 12 or more of an opponent's runners on base via a walk or hit-by-pitch but give up fewer than two runs in a nine-inning game. Oddly enough, the losing team in that long-ago game also was a team known as the Washington Nationals.
"A strange game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Jonathan — he didn't know where the ball was going. He was all over the board."
Here's the thing, though: The Nationals left the bases loaded three times. They only accumulated two hits all game — both by Rick Ankiel off Sanchez, including a run-scoring single in the second.
Sanchez walked six but allowed just one unearned run in his five innings. Guillermo Mota (2-0) pitched a perfect sixth for the win, and four other relievers followed with hitless work.
Still, Wilson made it interesting in the ninth. He walked two batters and hit Jayson Werth to load the bases with two outs, before striking out Adam LaRoche swinging for his eighth save in nine chances.
"When you're not scoring a lot of runs and leaving guys out there, it starts to weigh on you as a team," LaRoche said. "It makes every one of those opportunities seem more important than it is."
Lannan allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings: Eli Whiteside's homer in the third and the bases-full walk to Huff in the seventh.
"I blew it with Huff," Lannan said.
That was the last batter Lannan faced. Riggleman second-guessed himself after the game for leaving his lefty in to face Huff after having him intentionally walk Whiteside to load the bases.
Riggleman said he wanted to give Lannan a chance to possibly earn a win. But the skipper later realized he should have brought in reliever Tyler Clippard to pitch to Whiteside.
"That's one that's on me," Riggleman said.
Both teams learned before the game that they would be without their star third basemen for long stretches because of upcoming operations: Zimmerman will have surgery Tuesday in Philadelphia for an abdominal tear; San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval is expected to miss four to six weeks because of a broken bone in his right wrist.
Zimmerman normally bats No. 3 for Washington and won the 2009 NL Gold Glove for his play at third.
But he has played in only eight games this season, hitting .357 with a triple, one homer and four RBIs.
"It's hard to lose your best player," LaRoche said. "It's killing him not to be out there."
And the Nationals' offense sure could use Zimmerman right now.
NOTES: The Cleveland Indians walked 11 batters and hit one in a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on June 14, 1955, STATS LLC said. ... RHP Henry Rodriguez made his Nationals debut in the ninth, reaching 100 mph and striking out two of three batters. "Impressive," Riggleman said.