The San Francisco Giants' remarkable 10-game postseason winning streak ended on one bad throw by their best pitcher.
Buster Posey blamed himself for instructing Madison Bumgarner to go for the out at third on a bunt rather than a sure thing at first, believing the Giants had a good chance for a double play.
Bumgarner thought so, too, and went for it.
Instead, Bumgarner's rare blunder gave the Washington Nationals all they needed to get right back in the NL Division Series with a 4-1 win Monday to stave off elimination.
“It's such an intense game, and I know they want to get that out at third base but they probably tried to do a little too much there,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Giants had their big ace left-hander on the mound with a chance to advance to another NL Championship Series, but Doug Fister matched him pitch for pitch and the Nationals capitalized on San Francisco's miscue covering a seventh-inning sacrifice attempt by Wilson Ramos.
“I can't throw the ball away. I screwed it up for us,” Bumgarner said. “It was just unfortunate.”
Fister pitched seven shutout innings, dazzling again in San Francisco as the Nationals cut their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-five series. They ended the Giants postseason winning streak that started with Game 5 of the 2012 NL Championship Series against St. Louis.
“Being able to get that momentum swing to us a little bit is definitely huge,” Nationals star Bryce Harper said.
Washington scored two runs on Bumgarner's throwing error in the seventh inning to end his 22-inning scoreless streak. Harper punctuated the victory with a solo homer in the ninth.
On a day Bumgarner had been nearly untouchable, his own miscue prevented a three-game sweep.
Bumgarner fielded Ramos' two-strike bunt between the mound and the first-base line and fired to third rather than going for the sure out at first.
“We probably should have taken the out of first. I made a mistake telling him to throw to third,” Posey said. “It happens. We'll come tomorrow, go through the pre-game routine and be ready to go.”
Bumgarner's throw sailed wide of Pablo Sandoval's outstretched glove and bounced all the way to the tarp along the left-field wall before rolling over the bullpen mounds where two relievers were warming up.
Sandoval nearly did the splits trying to make the play and stayed down in pain as the two runs scored. Trainers checked on the third baseman and he remained in the game.
“The way it jumped off the bat, I thought we had a chance. Bum got a good jump on it,” Posey said. “We probably should have taken the out of first. I made a mistake telling him to throw to third. It happens.”
Drew Storen allowed the first two batters to reach in the bottom of the ninth but shook off his postseason struggles, giving up a run in closing it out as Washington forced a Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Now, the 96-win Nationals will send left-hander Gio Gonzalez up against San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.
“It would have been nice to finish it up today, but these are the times you play this game for,” Vogelsong said.
Asdrubal Cabrera followed Ramos' bunt with an RBI single. He spent the final eight innings watching the Giants' 2-1, 18-inning victory Saturday night after his ejection for arguing a called third strike.
Fister outpitched Bumgarner at AT&T Park for the second time in four months after a June gem, leaving behind the frightening memory of his October outing here in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series. Fister took a line drive to the right side of his head that day â€” while also opposing Bumgarner â€” but stayed in the game and carried a shutout into the seventh before Detroit lost 2-0 and was swept.
Storen, the beleaguered closer who gave up the tying run in Game 2, allowed Brandon Crawford's sacrifice fly in the ninth before finishing the 2-hour, 47-minute game. It was a far cry from Game 2, which took a postseason record 6:23.
Five days after pitching a four-hitter in an 8-0 wild-card win at Pittsburgh, Bumgarner was on a roll again, this time for the orange towel-waving sellout home crowd of 43,627.
Ian Desmond singled to start the decisive seventh and Harper walked to bring up Ramos, who began the season as the Nationals' cleanup hitter. Harper slid into home for the second run, hopped up and hollered in triumph.
Bumgarner hadn't given up a postseason run since Carlos Beltran homered in the fourth inning of the Giants' Game 1 loss of the 2012 NLCS in St. Louis.
Sandoval extended his postseason hitting streak to 14 games with a leadoff single in the second, the longest streak in Giants postseason history and currently in baseball.
Brandon Belt was caught stealing in the fourth, only the second time anyone tried to steal against Fister all year.
Posey is 3 for 14 (.214) against Gonzalez, while Sandoval is 1 for 10. The Giants are hitting .250 overall against the left-hander. Vogelsong has allowed the Nationals to hit .280 against him, with a .456 slugging percentage. Harper is 1 for 8 against the right-hander with four strikeouts. Span is 5 for 13 with two doubles and a triple against Vogelsong.