Sandoval beats Nats with homer in the 10th

Sandoval beats Nats with homer in the 10th
May 22, 2013, 2:00 am
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San Francisco -- Someone needs to tell Pablo Sandoval that it's technically illegal to smoke a Cuban in the U. S. 

Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain each put up seven strikeouts over seven innings, but Sandoval smacked a walk-off two-run home run against overmatched Cuban reliever Yunesky Maya to win it for the Giants in the 10th inning. 

The anticipated duel between aces seemed at first to be a letdown, as the Nationals jumped all over Cain in the top of the first to score two quick runs. 

Denard Span singled just past the diving glove of Brandon Crawford to lead off the game, and came around to score standing up on Ryan Zimmerman's one-out double. 

Zimmerman himself scored one out later, as shortstop Ian Desmond laced a line drive towards the right field foul line. However, Danny Espinosa struck out to end the inning. 

The Giants cut the deficit to one run the next inning with a classic piece of National League run manufacturing, as No. 7 hitter Gregor Blanco singled on a ground ball, moved to second on Cain's one-out sacrifice, and scored from their on Angel Pagan's single up the middle. Catcher Kurt Suzuki promptly cut down Pagan trying to steal, ending the threat.

And then, the hitting stopped.

After spending the first few innings consistently falling behind 1-0 in the count, both Cain and Strasburg seemed to get a better feel for their command as the game wore on, battling high winds and higher pitch counts to finish seven innings apiece. 

"My command definitely improved as [the game] went on," Strasburg said. "I was having a hard time throwing strikes in the bullpen before the game...the wind was tough."

Remarkably, each starter ended his outing in the exact same fashion, striking out four consecutive batters before recording their final out of the night on a grounder to the first base side.

It was in the eighth against reliever Javier Lopez that the Nats had their best chance for an insurance run, as Span led off with a double.

However, Bryce Harper controversially followed by sacrificing Span to third -- his second bunt of the game -- instead of trying to score the speedy center fielder himself. 

The move would backfire; after Zimmerman was intentionally walked, Adam LaRoche struck out, and Desmond grounded out weakly to new pitcher Jean Machi.

"I'm just trying to get guys in scoring position, get runs on the board," said Harper, who according to manager Davey Johnson chose to bunt on his own.

The Nats would not have another baserunner for the rest of the game.

San Francisco rallied against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano in the bottom of the ninth, with cleanup hitter Buster Posey singling off the pitcher's leg to begin the late-game theatrics. 

Unhurt, Soriano rebounded to retire Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt and had two strikes on Blanco. 

The pesky left fielder then drove a 1-2 pitch over Harper's head in right field for a triple, plating Posey with the tying run.

For Harper, that's a play he wishes he could have back.

"I mean, I make that play every day of the week," he said. "Five feet from the wall, that's really a play you should make any time of day."

Washington went down 1-2-3 in the top half of the 10th. 

By the time Maya trotted in from the bullpen to make his first major league appearance since September 27, 2011, the seagulls were circling like buzzards above McCovey Cove, just beyond right field.

Pagan flied out deep to Span, but Scutaro followed with a sharply hit single that nearly took Maya's head off. 

Sandoval took care of the rest, drilling a 1-0 pitch deep to right field for his eighth home run of the season, and the second walk-off game-winner of his career.

It was a tough end to a game the Nationals led for the first 26 outs, and a tough-luck no-decision for Strasburg, who lowered his season ERA to 2.66 but couldn't improve upon his 2-5 record.

"I feel bad for everybody," said Johnson in the clubhouse after the game.

For the visitors in San Francisco, it was that kind of night.