WASHINGTON — Jordan Zimmermann and other Nationals pitchers who had left the longest postseason game in baseball history were watching on TV in the home clubhouse as Washington fell behind San Francisco in the 18th inning.
Their reaction to Brandon Belt's homer?
"A few choice words that I probably shouldn't say," Zimmermann said.
One out from a shutout, Zimmermann was pulled by Nationals manager Matt Williams in the ninth inning and replaced by closer Drew Storen, who gave up Pablo Sandoval's tying RBI double. Hours later Saturday, long after Williams and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera had been ejected in the 10th, Belt's shot off Tanner Roark in the 18th lifted the Giants to their 10th consecutive postseason victory, a 2-1 win that gave them a 2-0 lead over the Nationals in their NL Division Series.
The teams tied the mark for most innings in a postseason game and, as afternoon turned to evening and then past midnight, set a time record at 6 hours, 23 minutes. They combined to use 17 pitchers and 24 position players.
"The two worst things in baseball are boredom and frustration," Nationals reliever Craig Stammen said, "and we were battling both of those tonight."
The Giants can close out the best-of-five NLDS at home Monday in Game 3, with Madison Bumgarner — who tossed a shutout against Pittsburgh in the wild-card game — facing Doug Fister.
"I'm sure it's going to be a quiet flight," said Zimmermann, who threw a no-hitter in the regular-season finale, then allowed only three singles in 8 2-3 innings Saturday.
Washington now needs to try to become only the third team to win a best-of-five playoff series after dropping the first two games at home. If they can't pull that off, their successes so far in 2014, including an NL East title and the best record in the league for the second time in three years, will have seemed for naught.
"We've got to go try and make some history, I guess," said Bryce Harper, who combined with Denard Span and Adam LaRoche to go 0 for 21 for Washington, which was held scoreless over the last 15 innings.
Down to their final out in the ninth, the Giants tied it off Storen — the closer who blew a two-out ninth-inning lead in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against St. Louis.
"I knew I was on a short leash," Zimmermann said. "I would have liked to stay out there, yes. But I'm not going to disagree with anything Skip does."
Williams was asked afterward about the decision to lift Zimmermann, who retired 20 batters in a row until walking Joe Panik — after the rookie launched a deep fly that barely sailed foul.
"Why did we decide to take him out? Because if he got in trouble in the ninth or got a baserunner, we were going to bring our closer in," Williams said. "That is what we have done all year."
Storen gave up a single to 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey, then the double to Sandoval that made it 1-all. Posey tried to score on the play, but shortstop Ian Desmond's one-hop relay was in time for catcher Wilson Ramos to tag Posey. After a 2 1/2-minute delay when manager Bruce Bochy asked for a replay review, Posey was ruled out.
Petit entered in the 12th and threw six scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven, to earn the win.
"I was trying to get as much as I could out of him," Bochy said.
Hunter Strickland got the save with a scoreless 18th.
By then, the temperature was in the low 50s; the Nationals used a hot-air blower in their dugout.
Roark came on in the 17th. An inning later, he threw a 94 mph fastball on a full count to Belt, who missed 96 games this season because of a broken thumb and concussion and was 0 for 6 Saturday until that at-bat. When he drove the ball into the second deck beyond right field, Belt dropped his bat and admired the shot as the Nationals Park crowd fell silent. When Belt got to the dugout, teammates slapped him on his head.
"A 3-2 fastball down the middle. That's what it is," Roark said. "Don't know what else to say."
In the 10th, Cabrera slammed his bat and helmet to the ground, then began yelling at home umpire Vic Carapazza, getting right in his face. That got Cabrera tossed. Williams pushed his player out of the way and also got kicked out. Fans began booing ball-and-strike calls; they cheered when a foul ball ricocheted off the screen behind the plate and hit Carapazza in the 18th.
That might have been the last inning played at Nationals Park this season.
To get back home, Washington needs to win two in a row on the road against a team that seems as if it's unbeatable in October.
"You can't sit around feeling sorry for yourself," Storen said. "There's still baseball to play and we still have a job to do."
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