The Washington Nationals (31-32) were in a perfect situation to create some momentum on Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies (35-30).
They had just put together 24 hits and 12 runs in one day during a doubleheader sweep on Sunday, and they were taking that impressive offensive effort to a ballpark that is notoriously kind to hitters.
But as they have struggled with all season, they just weren’t able to make that momentum stick. The Nats continued their five-week long trend of being unable to win more than two games in a row with their 8-3 defeat by the Rockies.
They had at least one man on base in seven of nine innings, but went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
The beginning of the game favored the Nationals. They scored first on a Denard Span two-run double, and Dan Haren was dealing through the first four innings. He gave up just two hits and struck out five batters on 56 pitches with two 1-2-3 innings.
But it would have been a miracle if Haren had escaped Coors Field without allowing a single home run, and in the fifth inning he gave up two, a two-run homer to Tyler Colvin and a three-run shot to Carlos Gonzalez. The Rockies batted around in that inning, and Haren gave up a total of six hits and one walk to allow Colorado to score five runs and take the lead.
Haren now leads all Major League pitchers with 17 home runs allowed, and according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times, 63% of the 46 earned runs Haren has given up this season have come by way of home run.
The Nationals know that Haren has this tendency, though, and were likely even more aware of it coming to Coors Field, where baseballs are very prone to leaving the park. Yet they were not able to score enough runs to overcome the deficit their starter had created.
They scored one more run in the eighth inning, when Jayson Werth walked and then scored on an Ian Desmond single, which extended his hitting streak to 13 games, but that was it for the offense.
The Nationals’ pitching staff did a decent job of shutting down the Rockies’ best hitters. Gonzalez struck out four times, but redeemed himself of his Golden Sombrero with his home run in the fifth, which was his team-leading 18th of the year. Troy Tulowitzki, who came into the game batting .353, also struck out twice and had zero RBIs, but went 2-for-4.
Erik Davis and Fernando Abad combined for two scoreless innings, keeping Abad’s ERA at 0.00 through 10 outings since being called up by the Nationals.
Drew Storen had his own streak of seven scoreless outings coming into Tuesday night, but when he came in to pitch the eighth he made a mess of the inning quickly. He gave up four consecutive hits – two singles, a double and a home run, Colvin’s second two-run shot of the night – before walking Dexter Fowler to load the bases with no outs. Storen induced a double play, but one more run scored before he struck out Gonzalez to end the inning.
The Rockies got a total of 14 hits off Nationals pitchers, and the Nats offense was unable to match the Rockies’ effort. With the loss, the Nationals fell below .500 for the fifth time, and will again find themselves searching for something to inspire momentum as they try to avoid a series loss on Wednesday.