The Washington Nationals can certainly recognize outstanding young pitching when they see it.
Their hitters likely will when they step into the box Wednesday.
San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner will look to provide an encore to the best performance of his career when these first-place teams continue their series with a July 4 morning start in the nation's capital.
A rotation currently comprised only of pitchers 28 or younger has posted a major league-best 3.25 ERA and keyed the Nationals' revival.
Bumgarner (10-4, 2.85 ERA) is still just 22, and the Giants (45-36) hope he keeps shutting down opponents for a long time. He capped a 5-0 June by dominating Cincinnati in a 5-0 victory Thursday, striking out eight in a one-hitter for his first career complete game.
"By the numbers, it's the best game I've thrown," Bumgarner said. "But I've felt better and gotten beaten up pretty bad. That's the way this game goes."
Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan broke up Bumgarner's no-hit bid with a sixth-inning single.
"He's dealing," Hanigan said. "I'm glad I got one. He earned it. He's made adjustments, at least from last year to this year, in terms of how he's throwing."
Bumgarner has allowed just one earned run over 13 innings in two career starts against the Nationals, but two unearned runs crossed in his seventh inning of work at Washington in a 2-0 loss May 2, 2011.
He's a grizzled veteran compared with 19-year-old Bryce Harper , who will be facing Bumgarner for the first time. Harper handled left-handers well for the first six weeks of his major league career, but he has just two hits and 14 strikeouts in his last 32 at-bats against southpaws.
Ian Desmond may be an equally big concern for Bumgarner. The shortstop has gone 13 for 29 (.448) with 10 extra-base hits and nine RBIs in Washington's last seven games.
"If they keep hitting the way they're hitting now, I don't see why we can't just run away with this in the second half," Tuesday's winning pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said. "If we keep pitching the way we are, it's going to be tough to beat us."
Desmond homered Tuesday - his 14th - to help make it a rough night for Tim Lincecum as Washington won the series opener 9-3.
Edwin Jackson (4-4, 3.57) will try to rebound from a similarly ugly start and pitch the Nationals to a fourth straight home win.
The right-hander had posted a 2.12 ERA in his previous five starts before yielding eight runs and 10 hits in three-plus innings Thursday during the Nationals' 11-10, 11-inning loss at Colorado.
"The park is definitely not an excuse," Jackson said. "At the end of the day, you have to go out and get the job done and I didn't do a great job today."
Jackson hasn't beaten the Giants since doing so as a September callup for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003. His only other starts against them were a pair for Arizona in 2010, and he lost both while posting a 4.85 ERA.
San Francisco has totaled nine runs while losing three of four, but it still has a half-game NL West lead over the Dodgers.
|San Francisco Giants|
|June 26, 2012||Shane Loux||15-Day DL||Strained neck|
|June 14, 2012||Aubrey Huff||Day-to-Day||Sprained right knee|
|June 11, 2012||Aubrey Huff||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|June 07, 2012||Melky Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right hamstring|
|June 02, 2012||Santiago Casilla||Day-to-Day||Bruised knee|
|May 16, 2012||Melky Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left toe|
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ryan Zimmerman 's line drive to right-center kept going - and going and going - until it landed in the first row.
"I just thought it was a double," the Washington Nationals third baseman said.
The way the Nationals are playing lately, everything seems to come with a bonus. On a Fourth of July when the ball carried well, they took advantage of a morning start against a weary West Coast team and pounded Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in a 9-4 victory Wednesday.
"Another fun day for the skipper," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "You've got to tip your hat to the offense."
The Nationals have been carried to the top of the NL East by their pitching, but they put up a 9-spot on the Giants for the second straight day and are averaging nearly seven runs in their last 10 games.
"There's no way that this offense was going to be cold all year," starter Edwin Jackson said. "It was just a matter of time."
Jackson (5-4) allowed three runs in another rough first inning, the kind of setback the Nationals had trouble overcoming early in the season. He settled down and gave up only one more run and lasted 5 1-3 innings in the midday heat. Three relievers combined to shut down the Giants the rest of the way.
Zimmerman has spearheaded the offense's resurgence, batting .386 (17 for 44) since receiving a cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder on June 24. He was in a 5-for-49 slump at the time, and the travails of the team's No. 3 hitter were becoming a concern in a mostly positive season.
"I was playing banged-up for a while there," he said. "And when you try to play through things, sometimes it doesn't allow you to do the things you've been doing and that leads to other things and other things. It's definitely a lot better when you show up to the park and you feel healthy every day."
Zimmerman hopes he won't need another shot this season. He's certainly getting plenty of mileage out of this one.
He drilled a line drive his first time up - but it turned into an out when Bumgarner made a nice slide in the grass to retrieve and throw the ball after it hit the pitcher in the leg.
No one got in the way of Zimmerman his next two times up. His double peppered the left field wall - only a few inches from a home run - in a three-run third, and he and Michael Morse hit back-to-back opposite-field homers in a three-run fifth. Zimmerman is now 10 for 20 with four homers and 13 RBIs in six Independence Day games.
Bumgarner (10-5) followed last week's one-hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds with one of his rockiest outings. He was done after five-plus innings and gave up three home runs, matching a career high. He allowed seven runs total, more than in his previous four starts combined.
"Guys have days like this all the time," Bumgarner said. "It just depends on how good you can minimize the damage. I didn't really minimize it today."
Washington goes for the sweep Thursday. The Giants have lost four of five and have allowed nine-plus runs in consecutive games for the first time since 2009.
At least, for the Giants, the final game of the series will be at night. Wednesday's first pitch came at 11:08 a.m. so everyone could get home in time to celebrate the holiday, and it came after a Tuesday game that ended late because of a rain delay.
"You travel across the country and get acclimated to the time change and then have to bounce back to play an early game like this. Sure it played a part," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "But it's part of the schedule and you deal with it. Like I said, we did what we wanted to do by getting on the board early. We just couldn't hold it."
NOTES: The Nationals are 15 games above .500, matching their season high. ... Washington returned C Sandy Leon from rehab, reinstated him from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Double-A Harrisburg. ... Matt Cain starts for the Giants on Thursday, Ross Detwiler for the Nationals.