Game #65 Recap: The Zim and Desi Show

The Natsgot a much needed win against the Colorado Rockies this afternoon, winning 5-4 in a wild rubber match that brings the Nationals above .500 (33-32) for the first time since May 29th. With the win, Washington successfully took two of three on the road against a tough hitting lineup at the hitters friendly ballpark of Coors Field, and have shrunk the Braves’ NL East lead to 5.5 games. Let’s take a closer look at how the Nats got it done.

The Nats welcomed Ross Detwiler back to the hill, making his return to the five man rotation after being sidelined since May 15th with back problems. Yet this game began inauspiciously for the Rockies. In the bottom of the first, Detwiler’s very first fastball was smashed into the gap for a double by Dexter Fowler. The next batter, Jordan Pacheco, fouled off a pitch that hit the Rockies three-hole hitter, Carlos Gonzalez, in the left foot. He was forced to leave the game and be replaced by Tyler Colvin, thus removing one of the two most dangerous hitters in the Rockies lineup. After surrendering the run, Detwiler then hit Dexter Fowler in the third inning when the leadoff man tried to square around a bunt. It should be noted that Fowler appeared to lean into the pitch, so the pitch probably should have been called a strike, but the center fielder was noticeably hurt and ended up leaving the game in the 4th. In the 4th, Detwiler gave up a double to Michael Cuddyer, which was then bobbled and poorly fielded by Jayson Werth in right field, allowing Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to score all the way from first. Cuddyer was then plated by Wilton Rosario one out later. Detwiler was only able to go one more inning before surrendering the game to long reliever Craig Stammen. Det’s final line: 5 innings, 6 hits, 3 ER, 2 SO’s. Not great, not terrible, but good enough to keep the Nats in the game.

Offensively, the Nationals got just enough hits and some luck when they needed it most. Ryan Zimmerman extended the Nationals absurd consecutive home runs in a series streak to 78 with a two run shot off Jeff Francis in the third. Those were the only runs Francis would surrender against the Nats in his 6 innings of work, striking out a season high eight batters in the process. Considering Francis entered the game with a 6.30 ERA, Nats fans should be cautious about the recent offensive improvement. They were once again stymied by a poor starter; granted, Francis had something to play for with his spot in the rotation threatened by the recent successes of Roy Oswalt in the Rockies’ minor league system. But the Nationals have been struggling against sub-par pitchers all year, and with the recent exception of the Twins’ Scott Diamond, pitchers have found success against the Nationals’ bats. If the Nats are serious about making a playoff push, they need to find more success against these middling starters.

But when the Nationals needed some luck, they got it and then some. Ian Desmond - who was sensational in going 4-4 and extending his hitting streak to a personal best 15 games – led off the 7th with an infield single with the Nats down a run. After stealing second, he was stranded by Anthony Rendon and Kurt Suzuki, before being balked to third by Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez. With Steve Lombardozzi at the plate, Lopez was then called for another balk by “Balkin” Bob Davidson, the notorious balk impresario and second base umpire who noticed something that Nats fans didn’t, thus allowing Desmond to score from third. After Lombardozzi grounded out, Lopez was thrown out for arguing with crew chief Jim Hirschbeck at first. The Rockies’ pitching coach, Jim Wright, was also ejected in the 7th.

From there, the Nats had the momentum and seized control. The Nats scored 2 in the top half of the 8th thanks to a leadoff pinch hit double by Roger Bernadina, who was then plated by Zimmerman. Ian Desmond scored the winning run on an infield single, making it 5-3. After a scoreless 8th by the Xavier Cedeno/Drew Storen combination, Rafael Soriano pitched another nervy 9th inning, surrendering an RBI single to Todd Helton before finishing the inning and earning his 17th save in 20 opportunities. A series win is a series win, and the Nats will take any win they can get as they try to play .600 ball from here on out. But the Nats need to eat some of Ian Desmond’s steak and keep heating up their bats if they have any hope of making this division race contentious in the weeks ahead.

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