WASHINGTON — Brandon Belt and the rest of the San Francisco Giants did what they do so well in October: They never give in, they never give up, and they win. Simple as that. No matter what it takes — or how long.
Even 18 innings.
On and on and on the Giants and Nationals played, until Belt's homer off Tanner Roark leading off the 18th lifted San Francisco to its 10th consecutive postseason victory, edging Washington 2-1 on Saturday night for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
It tied the mark for most innings in a postseason game and, as late afternoon stretched into early evening and even past midnight, set a time record at 6 hours, 23 minutes. The teams combined to use 17 pitchers and 24 position players.
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.
That would be quite a sudden end to 2014 for the Nationals, who won the NL East and led the league with 96 wins. But after a pair of one-run losses, they're looking as if they're the latest team that can't figure out how to get past San Francisco.
Down to their final out Saturday while trailing 1-0 in the ninth, the Giants tied it on Pablo Sandoval's RBI double, then saw Nationals manager Matt Williams and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera ejected in the 10th.
Yusmeiro Petit entered in the 12th and threw six scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven, to earn the win. Hunter Strickland got the save with a scoreless 18th.
Roark, Washington's ninth pitcher, 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.
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.
Only one other postseason game in baseball history lasted 18 innings — when the Astros beat the Braves 7-6 in a 2005 NLDS. That one held the previous record for most time, too, at 5:50. Tim Hudson started that game for Atlanta — he was the Giants' starter in this one.
The Giants, it seems, were built to win just this sort of marathon. Manager Bruce Bochy and his resilient, can't-rattle-'em bunch break down opponents, no matter how talented.
The Giants won the 2010 and 2012 World Series under Bochy and have not lost a postseason game since falling behind 3-1 against St. Louis in the NL Championship Series two years ago.
In sum, they stay calm and collected. More than could be said for Washington, which had three of its best hitters — Denard Span, Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper — go a combined 0 for 21.
In the 10th, Cabrera didn't like a strike-three call — he hadn't liked the preceding strike-two call, either — and 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 came over, pushed his player out of the way and started arguing with Carapazza, brim-to-brim, before also getting 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.
By then the temperature was in the low 50s; the Nationals used a hot-air blower in their dugout.
The Nationals went ahead 1-0 in the third, when Anthony Rendon drove in a run off Hudson with one of his four singles.
Washington's Jordan Zimmermann followed up his regular-season-closing no-hitter by giving up three hits through eight scoreless innings.
He struck out six and retired 20 batters in a row in a stretch that ended with his only walk — of Joe Panik, after the rookie launched a deep fly that barely sailed foul. That came with two outs in the ninth, and Williams removed Zimmermann and inserted Drew Storen, the closer who couldn't protect a two-run lead with two outs in the ninth of Game 5 against St. Louis in the 2012 NLDS.
This time, 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 left fielder Harper's throw was relayed to home on one hop by shortstop Ian Desmond, and catcher Wilson Ramos tagged Posey, whose foot was slightly above the plate on his slide.
Posey signaled himself safe as he crossed plate. Yet after a 2 1/2-minute delay when Bochy asked for a replay review, Posey was ruled out.