SAN FRANCISCO -- One day after blowing a four-run lead and rallying to beat Arizona in 11 innings, the Nationals looked ready to use that strange winning formula again Monday night against the San Francisco Giants.
They built a 4-0 lead through three innings. Then they blew it all and eventually headed for extra innings. Only this time, the Nationals fell, 5-4, in a 13-inning loss at AT&T Park.
Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez lined a walk-off single to right field off reliever Craig Stammen, bringing home catcher Chris Stewart from third with the winning run in the opener of the three-game series.
"It's just two separate things," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of the back-to-back extra-inning affairs. "No feelings about yesterday's game. We were totally focused on today's game. We got a great effort from everybody involved. We just found a way to not get it done. That's a shame. There were a lot of great performances tonight. Tough loss, but we have to rebound and get it tomorrow."
For Stammen, it was an exceptionally tough loss in his first appearance since being called up on Saturday from Triple-A Syracuse. He had been starting at Syracuse, but now he's in the bullpen, and he entered the game in the bottom of the 13th because, at that point, Riggleman had no other options.
"It's still pitching," Stammen said of his new role. "No excuses. It's different. That's why they pay us to play. That's my role. Next time I'll try to be better prepared."
Stammen issued a leadoff walk to Stewart, but he struck out Giants reliever Javier Lopez, who tried to bunt but didn't make contact. Andres Torres then lined a single to right, moving Stewart to second. Miguel Tejada hit a chopper to shortstop Ian Desmond, and Desmond got the force at second, but Stewart moved to third.
Then Sanchez lined his game-winning single to right, hitting a pitch that Stammen left up too high, where Sanchez could handle it.
"It's not a comfort zone to pitch in for your first one," Riggleman said.
Up until the eighth inning, the Nationals appeared headed for an easy win after their dramatic 9-5 win Sunday over the D-backs.
First baseman Michael Morse hit a solo home run in the second and a two-run double in the third off Giants ace Tim Lincecum as the Nationals built their four-run lead. John Lannan outdueled the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, allowing just four hits and one run over seven innings. He struck out six, walked three and didn't allow a run until Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand led off the seventh with a home run to left, cutting Washington's lead to 4-1.
Lannan left the game after seven innings with that three-run lead, but it evaporated when the Giants scored three times in the eighth off the Nationals' bullpen, knotting the score at 4.
"The Giants, that's how they won it last year," Lannan said of the reigning World Series champions. "They don't give up."
Right-hander Todd Coffey took over for Lannan to start the eighth. With one out, Sanchez dumped a single to right, and Cody Ross grounded a double down the left-field line, moving Sanchez to third.
Left-hander Sean Burnett came on to face left-handed-hitting Aubrey Huff, and Huff blooped a two-run, broken-bat double down the right-field line, cutting the Nationals' lead to 4-3.
"You make good pitches. He hit it where they weren't," Burnett said. "It's frustrating. You've just got to keep pitching. Hopefully your luck changes. I feel like I'm throwing the ball well, but I've got nothing to show for it."
At that point, Riggleman went to his bullpen again, calling on Henry Rodriguez to face Rowand. Rowand struck out looking, but shortstop Brandon Crawford singled softly to center and pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz lined a single to left, scoring Huff and moving Crawford to third. Rodriguez struck out pinch-hitter Pat Burrell for the third out to keep the game tied.
"It was another tough game, second in a row," Morse said. "We fought all the way to the end. It was good to get Lincecum out early, get some runs off him. It was one of those games."
One day after hitting an 11th-inning grand slam against Arizona, Morse rocketed a solo shot off Lincecum into the left-field stands in the second, putting Washington ahead 1-0. After getting ahead 2-1 in the count, Morse sent a knee-high Lincecum pitch over the wall for his ninth home run of the season.
The Nationals scored three more runs in the third to take a 4-0 lead, with Morse delivering the big blow, a two-run double. Lannan and Roger Bernadina worked back-to-back walks off Lincecum to open the inning, and Desmond singled, loading the bases.
After Jayson Werth popped out to catcher Eli Whiteside, Laynce Nix brought Lannan home with a soft ground ball to Crawford, who went to second for the force. That set the stage for Morse, who lined a Lincecum pitch to right-center, scoring Bernadina from third and Nix all the way from first.
"We've had some good games against Tim Lincecum," Riggleman said. "He is a great pitcher, but we had great at-bats, put four on the board. Sometimes four is enough, sometimes it's not. John did a great job, but it kind of fell apart on us."
The Nationals were actually on the wrong side of some baseball history against Linecum. Lincecum struck out five and became the eighth pitcher since 1900 to record at least 1,000 strikeouts in his first five seasons. He struck out three Nationals in the first and two in the second, putting him at 1,000 for his career.
Washington got stellar work from its bullpen from the ninth through the 12th innings, when Rodriguez, Cole Kimball and Drew Storen combined to blank the Giants.
"Our pitchers did great, their pitchers did great," Morse said. "There was a lot of stoppage for a lot of innings on both sides."
The Nationals threatened in the 12th. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs lined a leadoff single to right off Sergio Romo, and Jason Marquis came in to pinch-run. Desmond then lined a single to center, moving Marquis to third, and he took second on the throw. But after Romo intentionally walked Werth, loading the bases, Lopez came in and retired Rick Ankiel on a fly ball to shallow center.
One inning later, Sanchez ended matters with his walk-off single.
"They are a tough club," Sanchez said of the Nationals, who beat San Francisco three out of four earlier this season at home. "They took care of us over there. Their pitching kept them in it. These next two days are going to be a dog fight."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.