WASHINGTON – Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run single in the eighth to seal the Washington Nationals' 5-2 win against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. He was even more proud of the play he made a half-inning earlier.
Rodriguez threw out pinch-runner Darren Ford trying to steal after reliever Tyler Clippard issued a walk to open the eighth with the Nationals leading 3-2. After the play, the next two Giants went down in order and Rodriguez gave his team two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning.
"That's like if I hit 4 for 4, to be honest with you," Rodriguez said of his defensive play. "Throwing a guy out late in the game like that, that's a game-saving play right there.
"To cut the rally right there is good for us. That's why I always take a lot of pride in my defense."
Before Rodriguez's clutch contributions, Washington's offense had trouble capitalizing on its chances. The Nationals scratched out a lead despite going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings, and they stranded a runner on third base four straight times between the second and fifth.
Jordan Zimmermann (2-4) made the runs Washington did get hold up. Zimmermann allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, walked two and struck out four to end his three-game losing streak. He threw 107 pitches, the most since he returned from his August 2009 Tommy John surgery late last season.
"I try to get stronger as the game goes on, and I felt fine the whole game," Zimmermann said. "I still felt strong at the end."
Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five chances to give the Nationals their third win in four games.
Alex Cora had a double, a single and an RBI for Washington, his first multihit game of the season.
"It was pitching and defense," Cora said. "Zimmermann did a great job, Pudge came up big and we did enough offensively to get the W."
The Giants' only runs came in the second inning. Miguel Tejada reached on an infield single and advanced to third on Mike Fontenot's double off the right-field wall. Nate Schierholtz hit a blooper that landed on the left-field line between left fielder Laynce Nix and shortstop Ian Desmond and scooted toward the stands, giving Schierholtz a two-run double.
Matt Cain (2-2) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out five and walked three. He also threw one costly wild pitch with the bases loaded in the third inning, allowing Rick Ankiel to score and tie the game 2-all.
Despite their troubles with runners in scoring position, the Nationals scored a single run in the second, third and fourth innings, starting with Cora's RBI double to the right-field corner.
Washington took the lead in the fourth. With runners on second and third, Jerry Hairston hit an RBI groundout.
In the fifth, the Nationals squandered a chance to add to the lead. Jayson Werth led off with a single that went through Schierholtz's legs when he attempted to field it on the hop, and Werth went to third on the error. He was stranded there as Cain struck out Nix and got the next two batters to pop out to first.
Rodriguez gave Washington a pair of insurance runs in the eighth. Danny Espinosa walked to lead off the inning, and after Desmond singled they advanced on a double steal and scored on Rodriguez's single to center.
Still, Rodriguez's throw earned the most accolades
"That was a great game Pudge played today," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "That was unbelievable. That guy Ford is about as fast as it gets in the league, and it was a changeup he threw him out on."
In his 21st major league season, Rodriguez is splitting time behind the plate with rookie Wilson Ramos but he still has the skills to impress his teammates.
"It's fun to watch him play when he comes to life," said Werth, who was 3 for 4. "It reminds me of the young Pudge Rodriguez, when I used to watch him play back in the day. He's still got a lot to offer. He's an icon of the game, and it's a privilege to play with him."
Rodriguez laughed when told of Werth's comment.
"I'm still the same guy," Rodriguez said. "Pudge, that's me."
NOTES: It was the 500th home game for the Nationals since moving to Washington in 2005. The team has a 238-262 home record during that span. ... Espinosa was rested, though he pinch-hit for Nix in the eighth and finished the game at second base. Espinosa and Ankiel are the only Nationals to appear in every game this season. ... San Francisco placed 3B Pablo Sandoval (broken bone in his right wrist) on the 15-day disabled list and called up 3B Ryan Rohlinger from Triple-A Fresno before the game.