Rockies get series win
GAME 1: ROCKIES 10, NATIONALS 6 | GAME 2: NATIONALS 3, ROCKIES 1 Freeland picks up 11th win as Colorado splits doubleheader
WASHINGTON» A stretch-run push toward October found its legs Sunday in the fifth inning of a Rockies doubleheader nightcap in The District. As fireballer Jon Gray slipped in one sideways turn through the order, his boss’ boss, across the country in Colorado, traded for a bigname catcher.
“From our vantage point, a couple thousand miles away from Denver, to get this type of player will pick everybody up,” Colorado manager Bud Black said of a deadline-beating trade for Texas Rangers backstop Jonathan Lucroy, a two-time allstar.
The Rockies, though, already declared their intentions. In a seriesclinching doubleheader split against the National League Eastleading Nationals, the Rockies punched back at a team that had trounced them earlier this season. This was a Washington lineup that bounded through eight home runs in one game last week.
Gray struck out eight batters and gave up just three runs on four hits, but the Nationals defeated the Rockies 3-1 on Sunday night. In the afternoon game, rookie southpaw Kyle Freeland (11-7) and a dynamic top of the order provided the fuel for Colorado’s 10-6 victory.
“The big thing is winning a series here and not at home,” first baseman Mark Reynolds said. “This past month, we struggled on the road a little bit. To get two out of three here is huge for our confidence. We had great starting pitching this
whole series. That’s what gets you to October.”
Colorado (60-46) moved a half game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League’s top wild-card playoff berth. But the Rockies are nearer to the postseason than not. The Nationals (62-41) are just 3½ games better, and the Rockies are 5½ games ahead of the nextnearest team behind them, the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We won two out of three from a very good club,” Black said. “And I think they know we’re a good team too.”
Including a 4-2 win Saturday night at Nationals Park behind Venezuelan rookie German Marquez, the Rockies posted their first road series victory since June 11, when Colorado took three of four from the Cubs in Chicago.
Gray, like Marquez on Saturday, pitched perfectly through four innings, recording the first 16 outs on five strikeouts, six groundouts and a flyball. Anthony Rendon’s solid single to lead off the fifth marked Washington’s first baserunner. Adam Lind then blasted a two-run homer to left field, and Brian Goodwin hit an opposite-field solo shot to left two batters later.
“He pitched six no-hit innings. And in one inning, they got four hits against him,” Black said of Gray. “The fastball got out over the plate to both those fellas.”
Each of the Nationals’ four hits came in that fifth inning. Gray pitched two more innings with only one baserunner, a walk. But the Rockies managed only one run, on Gerardo Parra’s RBI single to right field in the fifth that scored Gray from second base.
“Everything was fine except for getting behind in that inning,” Gray said. “You can’t really dance around with those guys. You have to come out fast.”
Colorado’s offense, though, was not absent. In the matinee, Charlie Blackmon hit four singles and scored four runs, DJ LeMahieu finished 3-for-5 with two runscoring doubles and Nolan Arenado reached base in five trips to the plate, with three hits, including a career high-tying sixth triple.
“We know we can swing it,” Arenado said.
And Freeland, in a pivotal fourth inning, with two runners on base and just one out, struck out MVP candidate Bryce Harper, then forced Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to center field. Freeland gave up three earned runs on nine hits in just five innings, but surviving the meat of the Nationals’ order in the fourth catapulted the Rockies forward.
“That’s a good series win on the road against a good team,” Blackmon said. “That’s what we need to be doing. We’ve had a pretty good team all year. I know it’s there. We have the ability to play well.”
Right-hander Jon Gray, pitching Sunday night in Washington, dropped to 3-2 when the Rockies lost 3-1 and split a doubleheader against the Nationals. Gray posted eight strikeouts and issued only one walk in seven innings, but two of the four hits he allowed were home runs. His ERA is 5.52.