Ian Desmond drove in three runs, Luis Atilano was solid for five and one third innings, and Giants starter Tim Lincecum continued his less-than-himself struggles as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Francisco Giants 7-3 before 30,230 at AT&T Park.

The big story of the evening was Lincecum.  The two-time reigning NL Cy Young winner was ineffective, allowing 11 base runners in four and two-third and allowed four stolen bases.

He exited the game in the top of the fifth to a shower of boos from the Giants faithful.

The Nats got to Lincecum or three runs in the third and another three in the fifth.  Lincecum gave up six hits and five walks in less that five innings, marking the third straight contest he's walked five hitters.

Nats starter Luis Atilano, on the other hand, was efficient and effective.  He gave up just four hits, including a line-drive triple in the sixth that should have been caught by right fielder Roger Bernadina.  he did not walk a batter, and coaxed 12 ground ball outs against four fly ball outs.

In fact, it was strange that manager Jim Riggleman lifted Atilano with one out in the sixth.

The first batter of the inning, Giants leadoff man Andres Torres, hit a sharp line drive to right field that Bernadina misplayed, with the ball sailing over his ehad and behind him, before he crashed to the outfield turf.  By the time Nyjer Morgan tracked the ball down at the wall, the fleet Torres had three bases.

That earned a visit to the mound by pitching coach Steve McCatty.

Atilano then got Freddy Sanchez (0-for-4) to ground out to third baseman Ryan Zimmermen.  And that was it for the right-hander.

After 76 pitches, Riggleman decided that's all he needed to see from his starting pitcher, despite his giving up just four hits and not walking a single batter.

Riggleman called upon left-handed reliever Doug Slaten to face right-handed hitter Pablo Sandoval, and "Kung-Fu Panda" dispatched Slaten's first pitch to deep center field for a double, scoring Torres easily. 

Slaten managed to get Aubrey Huff to ground out to second, advancing Sandoval.  Drew Storen entered and struck out Juan Uribe to end the inning, stranding Sandoval at third base.

Riggleman's lifting of Atilano continues a trend for the Nats' skipper.  Only twice in the last 13 games (5-8) has Riggleman allowed his starter to reach 100 pitches in an outing, including the last two nights when the starter had not thrown 80.

And in only one situation had the starter given up more than four earned runs.  That's not a very stringent barometer, but four runs allowed shouldn't be a death sentence for a major league baseball team.

Of course, every game has it's own set of situations, but examined over a longer period of time, trends emerge.  And this trend looks like Riggleman doesn't--or won't--trust his starters in the sixth inning.

Regardless, Wednesday night Slaten, Storen and Tyler Clippard all did their jobs and secured the win for Atilano, now 4-1 with a 4.82 ERA in seven starts.

In four career starts away from Nationals Park, Atilano is 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA as opposed to 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA at home.

Ian Desmond and Josh Willingahm were the hitting heroes again.  Desmond went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Willingham 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs.  Adam Kennedy drove in a run, scored two, walked twice and stole two bases.

Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Zimmerman both had steals against Lincecum as well.  The Nats had not stolen a base in 16 games, but swiped four last night.

The three-game set with San Fran concludes this aternoon at 3:45 EDT.  Craig Stammen (1-2, 5.96) faces another former Cy Young winner, Barry Zito (6-2, 2.80).

NATS NOTES:  J.D. Martin will be recalled and start Saturday in San Diego.  No corresponding move has been announced.

Desmond committed his 10th error of the season, drawing Adam Kennedy off first with a throw.

The Nats struck out 12 times, walked five times, and left six men on base.

3 comments

  1. Anonymous // May 27, 2010 at 12:10 PM  

    The game was on too late for me put the lifting of the starting pitcher, as described, does seem weird. Kind of reminds me of Acta.

  2. Dave Nichols // May 27, 2010 at 12:29 PM  

    I get that Riggleman is managing every game like his job depends on winning that specific game, but IMO he's gotta let the starters get throught he sixth.

  3. Cheryl Nichols // May 27, 2010 at 1:22 PM  

    Photos would sure spice up these posts. LOL. :)