The Washington Nationals are back to doing all the little things that make them winners: scoring early, starting pitchers working deep into games and then turning the ball over to a now even-better, deeper bullpen.
Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run homer and RBI single during a three-hit night, Trea Turner added a solo drive to help back Anibal Sanchez, and the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 5-3 Tuesday.
“We’re playing good baseball right now,” said manager Dave Martinez, whose club had lost four of five and seven of 10 when it arrived in the Bay Area and now took the first two from the Giants. “I said, ‘Hey, we hit a little lapse there for a minute and now we’re back on track and let’s keep it going.’”
Sanchez (7-6) allowed one earned run on four hits in six innings, struck out three and walked one to win his seventh straight decision since a loss at the Dodgers on May 10.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 28 strikeouts to 10 walks in five career starts against San Francisco.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Martinez said.
Suzuki followed up his first-inning single with his 12th homer in the third. Turner connected leading off the fifth to reach double-digit homers for a fourth straight year.
Suzuki matched his 2018 home run total and has 43 RBIs.
“I like the RBI totals. For me, production is key,” he said.
Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly in the third. Former Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, whose hot temper defined his Bay Area tenure more than his pitching, worked the bottom of the seventh for Washington.
Suzuki and Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who finished for his 25th save in 29 chances, are former fan favorites with the Oakland Athletics — and Suzuki caught Doolittle’s A’s debut in 2012. Doolittle pitched around Kevin Pillar’s one-out double in the ninth.
Pillar singled up the middle leading off the third for the first hit against Sanchez and Pillar advanced on an errant pickoff attempt by the pitcher. Brandon Crawford’s groundout scored Pillar.
Pablo Sandoval entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, doubled, stayed in the game and added an RBI double in the seventh, one day after the Giants were held scoreless in a 4-0 defeat Monday — their first time being shut out since June 24 against Colorado.
“He’s done a great job, hasn’t he? Off the bench, a pretty nice weapon to have,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the 2012 World Series MVP.
Conner Menez (0-1) allowed five runs on six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked three. The left-hander was called up from Triple-A Sacramento to make his second career appearance after he started and struck out six over five innings against the Mets on July 21.
Switch-hitting infielder Asdrubal Cabrera reached agreement on a one-year contract for a second stint with Washington, and Martinez told him to be ready for multiple roles.
The 33-year-old Cabrera was released Saturday by the Texas Rangers as they turned to youth. He batted .235 with 12 home runs, 15 doubles and 51 RBIs in 93 games, drawing 38 walks.
Cabrera, who played all of his games at third base this season, appeared in 49 games for Washington in 2014 after being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline.
“I’m very thankful to the Nationals. They gave me an opportunity to return to the team,” Cabrera said.
Second baseman Joe Panik was designated for assignment with San Francisco no longer needing him to play regularly, with the acquisition of Scooter Gennett at the trade deadline.
Bochy called it one of the most difficult meetings he has had in his managerial career when he informed Panik after Monday night’s 4-0 loss to the Nationals.
The 28-year-old Panik, a first-round draft pick by the Giants in 2011 and key contributor on San Francisco’s 2014 World Series champion team, was batting .235 with three homers and 27 RBIs in 103 games this season.
“It’s always tough when you see one of your guys go,” Bochy said. “Joe was drafted by the Giants, he’s a Giant. He’s done so many good things for us, helped us win championships here.”
Nationals: Ace RHP Max Scherzer, nursing a strained muscle below his pitching shoulder in the upper back, had a day off after making 40 throws Monday. “We might just let him take a couple days and get him back throwing again, maybe possibly tomorrow or maybe even Friday,” Martinez said. A simulated game might be part of his rehab, not necessarily a minor league outing. … RHP Austin Voth (right biceps tendinitis) got through a bullpen session Monday with no issues other than some normal soreness.
RHP Johnny Cueto, working back from Tommy John surgery with the plan for him to pitch in September, will pitch again Friday for the rookie-level Arizona League Giants. He is scheduled to work up to about 30 pitches after throwing 21 in two scoreless innings Sunday. “I think the plan is to stay with the plan, don’t rush him,” Bochy said. “We’ll see how he’s coming along.”
RHP Joe Ross (1-3, 8.10 ERA) starts against the Giants for the first time since his rookie year, on Aug. 16, 2015. Giants RHP Shaun Anderson (3-3, 5.08) makes his 16th career start and first vs. Washington with San Francisco having won five of his last seven outings.
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