Moon Bouncing: The Nats Series At Colorado
The Nationals went into the series with the Colorado Rockies after having lost a series to the Orioles, so picking up a few wins was the one thing on everyone's mind. The Nationals had also shown some trouble picking up runs or getting hits with runners in scoring position. All these things are nothing new to the Nationals or their fans, as it has become no secret that the Nationals are doing as well as they are because the pitching staff. However, the in entering the city of Denver and playing in Coors Field, the Nationals pitching staff would be put to the Test.
The Rockies have historically had problems with Coors Field, a well-known hitters park. The Nationals would meet the Rockies at Coors Field when they are in an odd sort of transition. The Rockies had recently had a few good years and are currently trying to find the best way to play baseball at Coors Field. The light mountain air and high elevation allow the ball to travel farther and longer. Additionally, pitchers have to work harder to make their breaking pitches break. It is not uncommon for a pitcher to give up a lot of hits or tire quickly. As a result, the Rockies are trying a new system for their starting pitchers. They are using a 4-man rotation, which is limited to a maximum of 75 pitches. Then, a sort of buddy system is used, where a relief pitcher is paired with that starter and limited to 50 pitches. It is an interesting way, but the Rockies are battling something no other Major League team is battling, their own ballpark.
The Nationals sent Stephen Strasburg to the mound in the first game of the 4 game series. The game was oddly uneventful for Colorado. The Nationals would go on to lose 4-2 on with a highlight being a double from Stephen Strasburg. Marco Scutaro was also hit in the head when Strasburg did not get a very good grip on a fastball. Strasburg, who obviously did not do it on purpose, showed disgust with himself and had to regroup for a second. The Rockies seemed to get a fire under them after the hit by pitch, and picked up all the runs they would need to win the game. Strasburg ended up taking the loss and Josh Roenicke got the win in relief of Jeff Francis.
Game 2 had Gio Gonzalez take the hill for the Washington Nationals, and Gio has been one of the best Nationals pitchers in 2012. Gio Gonzalez gave up a season high in hits and allowed 2 home runs. It is very Odd for Gio Gonzalez to give up so many hits as well as 2 home runs, it is obvious to say that Coors Field was being Coors Field. However, the Nationals benefited from the effects of the thin mountain air more than the Rockies did. The Nationals pounded Guillermo Moscoso (who came on in relief of Christian Friedrich who gave up 4 runs) for 8 runs. At the end of the night, the Nationals hit 4 home runs and won the game 12-5 to give Gio Gonzalez his 10th win of the year. Gio is the first Nationals' pitcher to get to 10 wins this year and the quickest to do so since the team relocated in 2005.
Game 3 of the series featured Jordan Zimmermann on the hill for the Nationals. Jordan Zimmermann's luck with run support is well documented amongst both the Nationals and their fans. Zimmermann would be on the right side of the numbers this time as he would get 11 runs of support in the 7 innings he was on the mound. Zimmermann would also dial up the double play 4 different times. By the end of the game, the Nationals would win yet another rout against the Rockies by the score of 11-5. With the win, Jordan Zimmermann was able to improve his win/loss record to 4-6 on the season. It was also evident after this game that Ryan Zimmerman, who homered for the 2nd straight night, was starting to see the ball better. Ryan Zimmerman admitted he was dealing with some shoulder discomfort after the Orioles series, but had received a cortisone shot. It became obvious that hitting the ball became less painful for Ryan Zimmerman. Truly, this game was all about the Zim's and it was a lot of fun.
Game 4 brought Edwin Jackson into Coors Field, the not so friendly hitters park. Jackson had historically not performed so well at the Rockies stadium, but just could not turn his luck around. Jackson gave up 5 early runs to put the Nationals in an early hole. As the game went on, however the Nationals fought the good fight. The Rockies put the lead further and further away, until finally the Nationals showed signs of life. Down 7-0 in the 3rd, the Nationals put 5 runs on the board to make it a 2 run game. An inning later, the Rockies put 2 runs on the board to take the lead further away to make the game 9-5. The Nationals would make it a 9-9 game in the top of the 5th inning, but would lose the lead when the Rockies scored one more in the bottom half of the inning to make it 10-9. In the 9th inning, the Nationals would get a clutch solo home run from Bryce Harper to tie the game at 10-10. In the end, the Rockies would walk off to win the game 11-10 and Craig Stammen would get tagged with the loss.
The Nationals ended up splitting the 4 game series with the Colorado Rockies while also having 3 consecutive days where at least 10 runs were scored. The Nationals got big home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore, Ian Desmond, and Adam LaRoche to name a few. As expected, it was an exciting offensive showing for the Washington Nationals, and the Rockies as well. Seeing the offense explode for 3 consecutive games was great, even if it was at Coors Field. Regardless of the effects of the park, the hitter has to connect well to hit a home run and it was great to see Ryan Zimmerman look like Ryan Zimmerman again. It is worth noting as well, that just because the Nationals are leaving Coors Field does not mean they will automatically begin to perform poorly at the plate. If anything, the Nationals confidence is at an all time high at the plate. The Nationals are now 43-31 on the season and go to Atlanta to play an important Series for the National League East.