As quoted by our beloved MASN color commentator, F.P. Santangelo, “One pitch can indeed change a ballgame.”
While fans thought the Washington Nationals (41-30) may just be hindered by 100 degree blistering heat and mile-high altitude as they headed to Colorado for a four-game set, one pitch by Nats’ ace Stephen Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th inning would certainly cost the game for our DC club this evening. The Colorado Rockies (28-44), despite coming in 0-9 in their last nine home games, defeated the Nationals by a score of 4-2 on Monday night. District on Deck’s own Bradley Herring called this one potentially a “laugher” in last night’s recap, but this wouldn’t end up being a ha-ha for the Nats as they open a short, seven-game road trip and NL play resumes.
Don’t get me wrong, Strasburg looked like his usual, awesome self for the first five innings of tonight’s game. Before the treacherous 6th, Strasburg earned seven of his eight K’s for the night and only allowed one run. However, in the bottom of the sixth frame a Dexter Fowler triple and 95 mile an hour pitch to the HEAD of Marco Scutaro would take Strasburg out of the game mentally for good. Following the HBP, Rockies’ all-star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez would drive in Fowler, and later, a Todd Helton sacrifice fly would give the Rockies a 3-2 lead that, of course, Nationals hitting wouldn’t catch up to. Strasburg finished the night with 6IP, 6H, 3ER, 1 BB (IBB) and 8 Ks. Chris Nelson, who pinch-ran for Scutaro following the shot to the head, would earn the final insurance RBI in the 7th against Tom Gorzelanny to put the home team up 4-2. Thankfully, Scutaro was able to walk off the field under his own power.
Despite coming into today’s matchup with an 8.56 ERA, Rockies starter Jeff Francis would pitch very well against an extremely cooled off Nationals lineup. Colorado has been using a four-man, 75-pitch-limit rotation this year, and tonight Francis went five solid innings while giving up only five hits, two runs, and striking out five in the process. The sole Nats player who seemed to show up at the plate for the game was catcher Jesus Flores, who went 3-4 with a double and both runs scored. The Nats were only able to squeeze out five other hits off Rockies pitching, including a frozen rope double to left-center by Strasburg that plated Flores in the 5th. Other than that, Nats hitters continue to struggle and things are looking bleak as the All-Star Game rapidly approaches. The Nationals hope to still salvage a series win as they will take on the Rockies three more times in that many days before heading off to Atlanta.
Champ of the Game: Jesus Flores, who at least came to Coors Field with some life in him. On the 3-4 night, he raised his average to .239.
For the Rockies, it’s a tough call because so many guys did their job well. I’ll give it to Francis, who certainly showed up his haters in this one. His breaking balls were deadly.
Chump of the Game: Can’t say ANY Nationals’ hitter has been playing consistently well recently, but judging on today alone Bryce Harper gets the nod. 0-4 with 3Ks—he seems to hate slow pitching and looked the way he did against Andy Pettitte a little over a week ago.