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Harper goes deep as Nats avoid elimination

SAN FRANCISCO — The Washington Nationals took advantage of a two-run throwing error by San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner to break a scoreless tie in the seventh inning en route to a series-extending, 4-1 victory Monday afternoon.

The win keeps Washington, which lost consecutive home games Friday and Saturday, alive in the best-of-five series. Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday at AT&T Park.

The Nationals will send left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the mound in the elimination game. The Giants will counter with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.

Bumgarner and Nationals right-hander Doug Fister were matched in a scoreless duel before Washington shortstop Ian Desmond opened the decisive seventh inning with a single to left field.

Bumgarner then pitched carefully to slugging Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper, who walked on five pitches to put two aboard.

Catcher Wilson Ramos then fell behind 1-2 in the count, but Nationals manager Matt Williams called upon him to bunt nonetheless, and he came through.

Ramos got one down to the right of the mound, and instead of going to first base for the sure out, Bumgarner attempted to nail Desmond at third. The throw was late, and when Desmond slid into a lunging Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the ball sailed past and into the Giants’ bullpen.

As Desmond was regaining his feet and heading home with the first run of the game, San Francisco left fielder Travis Ishikawa, a recently converted first baseman, was slow to back up the play, then didn’t see the ball rolling away until it was by him.

Ishikawa turned and chased it toward the left field fence, which allowed Harper to score all the way from first base, making it 2-0.

Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single to left, and Nationals third base coach Bob Henley chose to challenge Ishikawa’s arm despite the fact Ramos, a burly catcher, was the runner and there were no outs. Ishikawa’s accurate throw reached catcher Buster Posey a split-second late, allowing Ramos to score for a 3-0 lead.

That was easily enough run support for Fister and Nationals relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.

Having almost identical success against the Giants as he enjoyed in his first two career head-to-heads, Fister worked the first seven innings, shutting out San Francisco on four hits. The native of the Northern California town of Merced walked three and struck out three.

Fister also pitched seven scoreless innings against the Giants at AT&T Park in June in a 2-1 Nationals win.

He allowed one run in seven innings in his only other matchup with the Giants, that coming in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series for the Detroit Tigers. The Giants won that game 2-0.

Every time Fister faced San Francisco, he went against Bumgarner.

The Giants’ biggest threat against Fister came in the second inning, when the right-hander issued two of his three walks after an inning-opening single by Sandoval.

With the bases loaded and facing Bumgarner, who belted two grand slams this season, Fister struck out the opposing pitcher to end the threat.

Clippard worked a 1-2-3 eighth before Storen, who blew a save Saturday in Washington’s 18-inning loss, struggled to close the door on the Giants.

Sandoval led off the ninth with a single and took third on a double by right fielder Hunter Pence.

Storen then settled down, striking out first baseman Brandon Belt before giving up a sacrifice fly to shortstop Brandon Crawford, scoring Sandoval.

Ishikawa grounded to shortstop to end the game.

Harper gave Storen an insurance run with which to work, crushing a home run nearly into San Francisco Bay off Giants right-hander Jean Machi to lead off the ninth. It was his second home run of the series.

Bumgarner left after the fateful seventh, having allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out six and walked one.

The runs against the San Francisco ace snapped a personal 22-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, the second-longest in Giants history.

Belt, hero of San Francisco’s Game 2 win with an 18th-inning homer, and Sandoval each had two of the Giants’ six hits.

Center fielder Denard Span, previously hitless in the series, and second baseman Anthony Rendon had two hits apiece for the Nationals, who out-hit the Giants 7-6.

NOTES: The Nationals won three in a row at AT&T Park from June 9-11. … Before Monday, the Giants won their previous six potential series-ending games in the postseason, including last Wednesday’s wild-card win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. … The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series was San Francisco, which rallied to beat the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. … Asked before the game why right-handed-hitting 3B/LF Ryan Zimmerman was not in his starting lineup, Nationals manager Matt Williams explained, “Zim’s numbers against (Giants starter LHP Madison) Bumgarner are not great. Our lefties hit him pretty well.” Zimmerman grounded out as a ninth-inning pinch hitter. … The Giants announced that Game 1 winner RHP Jake Peavy would start Game 5 in Washington if the series got that far. The Nationals, on the other hand, said they will have their Game 1 starter, RHP Stephen Strasburg, available in the bullpen in Games 3 and 4, then deal with Game 5 if/when it arrived.


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