There were no late-inning heroics this time, no dramatic walk-off grounders. The Colorado Rockies made sure of that.
One night after the Nationals erased a four-run deficit to stun San Francisco, rookie left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz frustrated them into the seventh inning before a pitch count forced him out of the game. By then the Rockies had that same four-run lead and added to it in an eventual 5-1 victory at Nationals Park.
Colorado (32-51) beat Washington (48-33) for the third time in five games. The two teams split a four-game series in Denver last week. The Rockies also sent Nats ace Stephen Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA) to his third consecutive loss. Tyler Colvin homered in both the second and fourth innings to provide all the runs necessary.
The first came on what Strasburg called “a dumb pitch” – an expected elevated fastball that stayed down in the zone too much and right into Colvin’s swing plane. Strasburg wasn’t all that happy with the second one, either, but he didn’t want to walk Colvin with a runner already at second base. That change-up caught too much of the plate and had just enough lift to clear the right-field wall. Colvin finished 3-for-4 with three RBI.
“It’s not a good feeling, but what can you do?” Strasburg said of his three losses headed into the All-Star break next week. “Go out there and give it everything you have and try to keep your team in the ballgame. But sometimes it’s not going to work out.”
For their part, Washington’s batters felt they left Pomeranz off the hook. The rookie, part of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade last summer with Cleveland, was making just his seventh big-league start of the season and 11th overall. He couldn’t get his breaking ball over early, though, and yet the Nats still had trouble with his fastball, a pitch with sneaky movement.
“He would cut a few. I don’t know if it was intentional or just pulling it,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “But it had a little action. Pretty good velocity. But again – nothing we haven’t seen before.”
The Nats didn’t get their first hit until a Bryce Harper single in the fourth. He also walked in the sixth. Otherwise the only hitter to reach base off Pomeranz was Jesus Flores (error, walk). He only left the game because Colorado has gone to a four-man rotation with its struggling pitching staff and limits its starters to around 75 pitches. Pomeranz still lasted 6 1/3 innings with six strikeouts.
Washington made things quasi-interesting in the bottom of the ninth down 5-0. Ryan Zimmerman led off with a solo home run – his fifth in 11 games – and Michael Morse doubled. A single by LaRoche, who then took second base due to defensive indifference, put runners at second and third with no outs. But closer Rafael Betancourt struck out Ian Desmond and got Roger Bernadina to line out to left field. Flores then popped out to short to end it.
Strasburg dealt with the intense heat – 96 degrees and humid at game time – far better than he did in Atlanta last week when he had to leave after just three innings on an afternoon were temperatures at Turner Field topped 100 degrees. More fluids and an IV bag administered before the game meant Strasburg had little trouble with the conditions back home in the District. He gave up three runs, two earned, on eight hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
But other than the pitches to Colvin, Jonathan Herrera singled twice off Strasburg, Dexter Fowler once and he walked Carlos Gonzalez. Colvin’s first homer came moments after Flores dropped a foul pop up behind the plate that would have retired him. Fowler later homered off reliever Tom Gorzelanny in the seventh and Michael Cuddyer added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Rockies a 5-0 cushion.
“All I can really think of is two pitches,” Strasburg said. “I don’t think they were the right pitches to throw in that situation. I didn’t have the right mindset so it should be an easy fix.”
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