As the Washington Nationals slowly get guys back from the disabled list, and their hitters warm up with the summer weather, they are starting to look more like the team that was heralded in the pre-season as legitimate World Series contenders.
In the series finale in Colorado, the Nats used big days at the plate from Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, and a return to the mound from Ross Detwiler, to beat the Rockies 5-4 and raise their record back above .500 at 33-32.
Detwiler, returning from an oblique injury, was going to be limited to about 80 pitches, and he didn’t do himself any favors out of the gate as got behind right away in the first inning. After the Nats went down 1-2-3, Detwiler’s first pitch was ripped by Dexter Fowler into right field for a lead-off double. Fowler went to third on a groundout by Jordan Pacheco, and came in to score on Tyler Colvin’s pinch-hit single to left.
Yes, pinch-hit in the first inning. Carlos Gonzalez, an early N.L. MVP candidate, was hit in the lower left leg by a foul ball off the bat of Pacheco while standing in the on-deck circle and had to be removed from the game.
Zimmerman got the Nats on the board in the top of the third. Detwiler led off with his first hit of the season, a soft live drive to right. Two outs later, Zimmerman crushed a fastball from Francis to the bleachers in left field for his seventh homer this season and extends the Nats team record with a home run in 78 consecutive series.
Lifetime, Zimmerman owns a .365 average with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 28 career games at Coors Field.
The lead didn’t hold long though. The Rockies pushed tow across against Detwiler in the bottom of the fourth. Troy Tulowitzki singled to lead off and scored on Michael Cuddyer’s double that Jayson Werth then misplayed into an error in right field, allowing Cuddyer to go to third. Detwiler coaxed a grounder out of Wilin Rosario, but it was enough to bring Cuddyer in to make it 3-2.
Detwiler made it through five innings in his return to the rotation. He gave up three earned runs on six hits, without walking a batter, and struck out two. He threw 77 pitches, 51 strikes. Craig Stammen (W, 4-2, 2.94) took over for Detwiler and provided two innings of scoreless relief.
The Nats got a gift run to tie it in the seventh. Ian Desmond led off with a single and stole second as Kurt Suzuki struck out for the second out of the inning. Then, with Steve Lombardozzi hitting, Desmond was awarded third, and then home, when Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez was called for back-to-back balks by second base umpire Bob Davidson, widely known across baseball as “Balkin’ Bob” due to his proclivity for making the anomalous call.
Zimmerman delivered again in the eighth for the Nats. After Roger Bernadina’s one-out double, Zim cranked a double the other way which plated Bernadina, who appeared to jam his shoulder on the head-first slide on his double and was seen grimacing and being attended to by trainers in the dugout after he scored, though he did take the field the next inning.
Jayson Werth moved Zimmerman to third with a ground out and the Rockies inexplicable walked Adam LaRoche to face the Nats hottest hitter, Ian Desmond. The shortstop came through again for the Nats with his fourth hit of the day, an infield single in the hole that Tulowitzki gloved but could not make a play on. Zimmerman strolled home to make it 5-3.
Xavier Cedeno and Drew Storen combined on a perfect eighth inning in relief, and while Rafael Soriano gave up a run in the ninth, he held on for his 17th save of the season.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. He loves hitting in Coors Field. 2-for-4 with a homer, double, three RBIs and two runs scored. His yearly averages are up to .274/.350/.458.
THE BAD: Denard Span took another 0-fer in Colorado, going 0-for-4. Werth and Suzuki joined him today taking the collar.
THE UGLY: The Rockies lost Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki, their three best players and NL All-Stars all this season, to injury.
THE STATS: 9 hits, 4 BBs, 9 Ks. 2-for-5 with RISP, 6 LOB. E: Werth (1, fielding). 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 pm ET at the Cleveland Indians. Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.59) faces RHP Justin Masterson (8-5, 3.68)