It’s safe to say that any team facing Tim Lincecum and the world champion San Francisco Giants this season needs to take care when playing against such a strong competitor. But, for whatever reason, when the Washington Nationals face Lincecum … well, that’s a horse of a different color.
Lincecum made his fifth career start against the Nationals Friday night. The last time he faced Jim Riggleman’s lineup in 2010, he took a loss after allowing six runs in just 4.2 innings at AT&T Park.
Instead of Lincecum and the Giants pouncing all over the Nationals, Washington right-handed starter Jason Marquis was the better man on the mound.
Marquis threw a complete game shutout against the Giants for a 3-0 victory to start the four-game series. It took Marquis 96 pitches and seven strikeouts to record the win. He held the Giants to just one extra base hit off the bat of second baseman Freddy Sanchez in the sixth.
“Starting pitching is what it’s all about,” manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.
“That club over there really did some great things last year, but that pitching staff is what carried them through the year and kept them in contention. It’s indicative of what you can do with good pitching. We’ve had a lot of good pitching performances from day one. It’s what it’s all about, and Jason and Livo are leading the way.”
Friday’s game was Marquis’ first shutout since June 30, 2009 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a shaky start in 2010 due to bone chips is his elbow, Marquis’ 3-0 start to the season is a notable upgrade in performance.
Left fielder Laynce Nix and shortstop Ian Desmond led the Nationals on the offensive end going 2-for-3 and 3-for-3 respectively. Nix smashed a rocket of a two-RBI homerun to the bleachers in right-center field in the second to start things off, followed by Marquis’ RBI-single in the fifth that sent Desmond around to score the third and final run of the game.
The Nationals Achilles heel as of late, and on Friday in particular, is the top of the lineup. None of the Nationals’ first four hitters (Espinosa, Ankiel, Werth and LaRoche) reached a base until Werth drew a walk off Giants southpaw Dan Runzler in the eighth.
Riggleman remains positive that the top of the order will start producing once the cold weather gets replaced by summer temperatures. For the time being, Riggleman is confident that the top of his lineup is making an impact defensively.
“Danny’s doing a great job at second base, playing outstanding. And LaRoche is doing a great job at first base,” Riggleman said.
“When we get it going totally offensively, and we will, we’re about a month into the season, and we’ll get it going to where we’ll get a stretch where we’re not talking about these things but it seems like it’s a little bit of an epidemic […] that will change when the weather warms up a little bit.”