The Washington Nationals got a credible performance from their starting pitcher, but a lack of offensive production and faulty bullpen ultimately did them in, losing last night to the Colorado Rockies 6-3, before almost 36,000 at Coors Field in Denver.
If that script sounds familiar, it's mostly how the Nats built a 27-36 record in the first 2 1/2 months of the season before reeling off 13 wins in their next 15 games, fooling everyone into thinking they might be able to compete for a Wild Card spot this season.
Last night, Ross Detwiler was the starter that got no support. He went five innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits and three walks, striking out just one. He threw only 66 pitches, 38 for strikes. Detwiler certainly didn't put up world-beating numbers, but he was keeping his team in the game, trailing 2-1 when he left the game.
But the offense was simply inept.
In the top of the first, The Nats had a run in with runners at first and second with one out against shaky young starter Esmil Rogers (W, 5-1, 6.35). They didn't score again until Ryan Zimmerman's two-run two-out double in the ninth inning, trailing at that point 6-1.
The Nationals had their chances, but squandered them all night long. They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 men on base. Jayson Werth, Laynce Nix and Ian Desmond -- hitting in the fifth through seventh spots in manager Davey Johnson's lineup -- combined to go 0-for-10 with four strikeouts and a combined eight men left on base.
The bullpen couldn't hold Colorado in the late innings, effectively barring a comeback. Collin Balester wasn't so bad, allowing a solo home run to Troy Tulowitzki in two otherwise solid innings of relief. But the normally-reliable Ryan Mattheus had a rough outing, giving up three runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batter in the eighth inning, ending the competitive portion of the evening.
There's no rest for the weary, as the Nats are just starting an 11-day, 10-game road trip through Colorado, Chicago and Philadelphia, and a tough loss is a difficult way to kick things off. They'll look to Jordan Zimmermann tonight to stem the bleeding, having lost back-to-back games now, falling five game below .500.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Rick Ankiel, Michael Morse and Wilson Ramos all had two hits.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, stranding three.
THE UGLY: Ryan Mattheus. Three earned runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batter in one inning.
THE STATS: 10 hits, two walks, eight strikeouts. 2-for-11 with RISP, 10 LOB, zero GIDP. No errors, two DPs.
NEXT GAME: Tonight v. Rockies at 8:40 pm. Jordan Zimmermann (6-9, 3.12) faces Juan Nicasio (4-3, 3.95).