Molina Leads Giants Over Nationals 6-3

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

San Francisco--In what was one of the busiest days administratively in the Washington Nationals' history, they also had a ball game to play. Unfortunately, the Nats got out of the gate slowly and never caught back up with the San Francisco Giants as they dropped a 6-3 decision at AT&T Park.

The story of Tuesday night's game was Giants catcher Bengie Molina. Thrust in to the clean-up spot this season after the departure of Barry Bonds, Molina has responded with a career year, and he continued his success against the Nats, homering twice against starter Jason Bergmann and finishing 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. Bergmann was not sharp, especially early, as he surrendered five runs, four earned, and five hits in five innings of work. He did not walk a batter, and struck out only one. The first inning doomed Bergmann, as he allowed a lead-off home run to outfielder Fred Lewis, an infield single to Eugenio Velez, and a two-run shot to Molina, a no-doubt-about-it shot to left center field.

Bergmann settled down for the second and third innings, but in the fourth he was bit again. Molina led off with his second home run, his eighth of the season, and Omar Vizquel, statistically one of the worst batters in the NL this season, doubled to right field driving in ancient Rich Aurilia, who reached on an infield single. Bergmann fell to 1-7 on the season with the decision, and his ERA sits at 4.21.

The Nats hitters kept trying to claw their was back into this one, getting single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, but never could catch up. In the second, Jesus Flores legged out his first major league triple, as Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand laid out for Flores' hard liner to right center, but just couldn't come up with it. The ball scooted all the way to the wall in the deepest part of the park, where right fielder Lewis retrieved it and threw late back into the infield. Flores slip into third for effect, as there was no play at the base. The next batter, Paul LoDuca, who was lustily booed by the fans remembering his long-time affiliation with the hated Los Angeles Dodgers, hit a ball into the left field corner that was ruled a ground-rule double, and Flores brought home the first Nats run.

In the fourth inning, Austin Kearns led off with a double and Ronnie Belliard walked against Giants starter Barry Zito (W, 5-12, 5.56). With one out, LoDuca again produced, as he eked out an infield hit and Kearns sneaked home with another run, Belliard advancing to third. But that's where he would stay, as Felipe Lopez struck out swinging, and Bergmann grounded out to end the inning. The Nats final run came courtesy of red-hot Willie Harris, who continues to push his career best home run total higher, as he hit his seventh of the season. Harris finished 2-for-4, raising his season average to .253.

The game marked the return of Ryan Zimmerman to third base for the Nats, as he was activated from the disabled list before the game, taking the roster spot from Dmitri Young, who was DL'd Friday due to complications with his diabetes and conditioning. Zimmerman went 1-for-3 with two walks upon his return.

Washington continues its series against the Giants Wednesday night at 10:15 pm Eastern, with Colin Balestar (1-2, 5.87) on the mound against Kevin Correia (1-5, 5.81).

NATS NOTES: The loss drops the Nats season record to 38-62, last in the NL East. They are 16 games behind division leading Philadelphia.

The Nationals announced before the game they re-signed SS Cristian Guzman to a two-year, $16MM contract.

Also, the team traded closer Jon Rauch to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league 2B Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio was assigned to Triple-A Columbus, but GM Jim Bowden said, "For us, he's going to be our second-baseman long term. That's what he's going to be. We've optioned him to Columbus; we want him to develop. But he'll be up here at some point by the end of the year and he'll be our second baseman next year."

Molina Leads Giants Over Nationals 6-3 also posted at DC Sports Box