Washington Nationals drop opener vs. Colorado after disastrous 8th inning

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The Washington Nationals were two innings away from a relatively easy win over the Colorado Rockies.

They were ahead 4-1, and the victory seemed to be all but in the bag with Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon lined up for the final six outs. But this is baseball, and encouraging wins can turn into disastrous, disheartening losses in the blink of an eye. That’s exactly what happened to the Nationals Friday night.

With a three-run lead to work with, manager Matt Williams called on his usually stellar setup man, Storen, to pitch the eighth inning. But Storen, who prior to yesterday’s game had thrown 32 of his previous 35 pitches for strikes, did the only thing he had to avoid doing with a three-run lead: he gave up a go-ahead grand slam.

It started with a one-out walk to Daniel Descalso. Storen later allowed two consecutive two-out singles to load the bases for Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez represented the go-ahead run, and he delivered—hitting a 94 mph fastball from Storen over the wall in right field to give Colorado a decisive, 5-4 lead.

Prior to the disastrous eighth inning, the Nationals had played a great ball game.

It all started with Jordan Zimmermann, who was solid all night long. The right-hander allowed one run on four hits while striking out six batters over 6 2/3 innings of work. It was an encouraging start for Zimmermann, who was coming off an outing in which he gave up five runs in his last start against the Mets.

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For the most part, the offense did its part, too. The Nationals got on the board in the first inning after an RBI groundout off the bat of Bryce Harper. Washington stretched its lead to 2-0 on an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth, before scoring another run on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth in the sixth to make it a 3-0 game. Ian Desmond drove in the Nationals’ fourth and final run on an RBI double later in the inning.

After taking a four-run lead, the game took a painful turn for the Nationals. Zimmermann allowed an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning, before Gonzalez blasted the Rockies on top in the eighth. The Nationals’ offense failed to answer in the final two innings, and the Rockies came away with the 5-4 victory.

In a 162-game season, there are bound to be many painful losses along the way. And this one, folks, is as painful as they come. With the loss and the Mets’ win over the Rays, the Nationals are now 2.5 games behind New York for first place in the NL East.

Next Game: The Nationals will look to even the series tomorrow night, as Stephen Strasburg makes his return from the disabled list to face Eddie Butler and the Rockies. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

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