- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

Nationals Park was relatively quiet for more than two hours Friday afternoon, the sellout crowd quelled by Jake Peavy’s dominant start and a sputtering Washington Nationals lineup.

Then in the seventh inning, Bryce Harper sent a fastball five rows into the third deck in right field, a place where baseballs rarely land in batting practice, let alone playoff games. Asdrubal Cabrera homered two at-bats later. The deficit was down to one run. The crowd was suddenly alive.

But that was as close as they got. The Nationals made a push in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, scoring two in the seventh and threatening in the eighth. But when the game ended, nearly four hours after it began, the result was a 3-2 loss.

Game 2 is Saturday at 5:07 p.m. Jordan Zimmermann will oppose Giants right-hander and longtime Nationals nemesis Tim Hudson.

Before the Nationals’ surge, it was Stephen Strasburg vs. Peavy. After watching the 2012 playoffs from the dugout following his team-imposed shutdown, Strasburg made his first career playoff start Friday. He entered the game with a streak of 20 scoreless innings and was visibly amped from the moment he took the mound. In the first inning, he threw 11 pitches. Nine of them were 97 mph, and the last touched 99.

But the Giants weren’t fooled by Washington’s budding ace. Strasburg’s fastballs were hard but often ill-placed. The result was eight hits and two runs (one earned) over five-plus innings, as well as several well-hit flyouts that were tracked down by Denard Span and company.

Strasburg was solid in his postseason debut, but it was clear that he was not himself. After averaging 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season, he finished with just two strikeouts. It was the first time in his major league career that he pitched at least five innings and recorded fewer than three strikeouts.

Though he was not as sharp as he has been in recent weeks, Strasburg did not receive much help. After fielding a bunt in the third inning, Adam LaRoche’s decision to throw to second base in an attempt to get the lead run eventually resulted in a run. Travis Ishikawa, the lead runner, beat LaRoche’s throw to the bag and scored on a single by second baseman Joe Panik.

The Giants added another run off Strasburg in the fourth, and Peavy continued to subdue Nationals hitters. Washington didn’t record a hit off Peavy until Harper’s infield single in the fourth, and the veteran right-hander only allowed two hits in the game.

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