The Washington Nationals used eight starting pitchers all of last season, and only five up to September 1. Wednesday night, they used their eighth starter so far this season, sending journeyman Ross Ohlendorf against the Colorado Rockies at mile-high Coors Field. Ohlendorf came through for the Nats, keeping the Rockies’ potent offense off the board for six innings, leading the Nats to a 5-1 win to even the three-game series at a game apiece.
The Nats (32-32) called up Ohlendorf to make a start in Stephen Strasburg’s normal spot in the rotation. With the Nats’ ace due back next week, it’s probably a one-off shot for Ohlendorf, but he made the most of it. The 30-year old veteran journeyman, who owns an 18-32 record with a 5.10 ERA in 108 MLB games with the Yankees, Pirates and Padres pitched six innings and allowed just one earned run on two hits and two walks, striking out two. Ohlendorf threw 54 of his 89 pitches for strikes.
The Nats stuck first in the fourth inning against Rockies starter Jorge de la Rosa. Ryan Zimmerman earned a nine-pitch base on balls and took second on Jayson Werth’s comebacker. Adam LaRoche struck out looking, but Ian Desmond delivered with two outs, singling to right field to plate Zimmerman.
They tacked on more runs in the sixth. With de la Rosa running out of gas, Jeff Kobernus walked on four pitches. Zimmerman then clobbered one to deep center, where center fielder Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez collided, with the ball falling safely for an RBI double for Zimmerman, ending de la Rosa’s night.
Werth grounded out against reliever Adam Ottovino, moving Zimmerman to third. The Rockies intentionally walked LaRoche to set up a righty-righty matchup with Desmond. Ottovino uncorked a wild pitch, moving LaRoche up to second. Desmond then foiled the Rockies plans, singling to center to score both runners and give the Nats a 4-0 lead.
The Rockies finally got to Ohlendorf in the sixth. Fowler walked with one out, but was erased on a fielder’s choice, with Jonathan Herrera taking his place at first. Herrera stole second when no defensive player covered the bag. With two outs and first base open, the Nats decided to pitch to MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez, and he made them pay, tripling to left field to drive in Herrera.
Ohlendorf got out of the inning by coaxing a long fly ball from Troy Tulowitzki to end the frame.
The Nats picked up another run in the eighth as LaRoche doubled to right, took third on Desmond’s ground out, and scored on Anthony Rendon’s RBI double. Rendon has 13 total bases in six games since rejoining the Nats. Danny Espinosa had 13 total bases in his previous 19 games before being placed on the D.L.
From there, the game was in the hands of the bullpen, and Ian Krol, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano all did their jobs to deliver the win.
THE GOOD: Ross Ohlendorf, naturally. He’ll probably only get one start for now, but he was very good in a tough park to pitch in when the Nats really needed it.
THE BAD: Denard Span. 0-for-4.
THE UGLY: The Nats lost four runners on the bases, including Jeff Kobernus getting thrown out stealing in the first inning, and Ian Desmond caught stealing twice. For a team struggling to score runs, you can’t waste outs on the bases.
THE STATS: 8 hits, 8 BBs (a season-high), 8 Ks. 3-for-11 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Ohlendorf (1, throw).
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 3:10 pm ET against the Rockies. Ross Detwiler (2-4, 2.76) returns from the disabled list to face LHP Jeff Francis (2-4, 6.30).