Washington 7, Colorado 2; 21 July 2014 (Washington 54-43, Colorado 40-59)
After taking two of three at home against Milwaukee over the weekend. the Nationals headed out on a 9-game road trip. First stop is Denver on Monday, to oppose the Rockies.
Colorado has been struggling lately (6-23 since mid-June). In addition, the Rockies would miss two mainstays on Monday. All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is day-to-day with a sore left thigh. First baseman Justin Morneau is on the 15-day disabled list with a neck strain. On Monday, rookie Ben Paulsen was recalled from AAA Colorado Springs to replace Morneau. Paulsen made his major league debut at first base on Monday night. Congratulations to the young man on making it to the big leagues.
For the Nationals, manager Matt Williams gave left fielder Bryce Harper the night off against the left-handed starter. Ryan Zimmerman started in left field, Anthony Rendon started at third base and Danny Espinosa started at second base. The lineup worked out alright. Ian Desmond went 5-for-5 with a homer. Espinosa drove in two runs with a double and a triple, and the Nationals cruised to a win in the series opener.
Each team got runners on base in the first two innings, but neither could scratch across a run. Doug Fister and his Colorado counterpart Franklin Morales were able to get out of jams in the first three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Washington lit up the scoreboard. Zimmerman led off with a sharp single to left. Ian Desmond followed by turning on a low breaking ball for his 17th home run of the year. Wilson Ramos singled to center, and Danny Espinosa followed with a ringing double to the base of the left center field wall. Espinosa’s hit broke a 0-27 skid, and drove in Ramos from first base. Doug Fister followed with a bunt towards third. Morales fielded it, wanted to go to third base, but teammate Nolan Arenado signaled the play was at first. Morales threw high to D.J. LeMahieu (who was covering first). With runners on the corners, Morales tried to pick off Fister, threw the ball past his first baseman Paulsen into foul territory, and Espinosa scored the fourth run of the inning. Halfway through four innings, Washington led 4-0.
Colorado got back in the game in the home half of the sixth inning. Josh Rutledge led off with a single to center. Corey Dickenson’s grounder to Espinosa resulted in a force out at second base. Carlos Gonzalez’ single to center moved Dickenson to third. Nolan Arenado followed with a single to left. Dickenson scored, but Gonzalez went too far past second base. Zimmerman threw behind the runner, got Gonzalez hung up between second and third, and Espinosa threw to Rendon to get the lead runner. With Arenado on second, Paulsen lined a single into left center. It was the rookie’s second hit of the night, and his first MLB run batted in. Fister then gave up a single to Wilin Rosario and a walk to LeMahieu to load the bases. Reliever Aaron Barrett came on to face pinch-hitter Brandon Barnes. Barrett broke off a nasty slider in the dirt to strike out Barnes and end the threat. After six innings, it was Washington 4, Colorado 2.
The Nationals got two runs back in the top of the seventh. Colorado sent on reliever Tommy Kahnle to open the inning, and he walked Zimmerman to start. Desmond singled to right, his fourth hit of the night, to move Zimmerman to second. Ramos’ single to right scored Zimmerman, who barely avoided the tag and barely touched home plate with his left hand. Desmond took third on the play to the plate. With Espinosa at the plate, Kahnle loosed a wild pitch that allowed Desmond to sprint home. Halfway through seven innings, Washington led 6-2.
Nationals’ left-hander Jerry Blevins retired six of the seven batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and Ross Detwiler retired the Rockies in order in the ninth to finish the game.
On Tuesday, Jordan Zimmerman starts against Colorado rookie left-hander Yohan Flande.
Note: Desmond’s five hits tied a career high.
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