On Saturday, the Nationals and Rockies took the field at Nationals park and the Nationals would go on to even up the series at one game a piece. The Nationals did not fare too well against Jeff Francis in Colorado, but got a second shot at the left hander on Saturday. The Nationals would get just enough offense, some very good defensive plays, and good pitching from both Gio Gonzalez and the bullpen. Ultimately, defensive miscues by the Rockies allowed the Nationals to take a healthy lead.
It was a cool 105 degrees at Nationals park, when the Rockies and the Nationals took the field. One had to wonder just how much of an effect the sweltering heat would have on the game, but both teams would have to suffer through it. Gio Gonzalez and Jeff Francis took the hill for the Nationals and the Rockies respectively. Gio Gonzalez had a somewhat rough start to the ballgame as he gave up a couple of hits early, and found himself wiggling out of jams. Gio Gonzalez had thrown 56 pitches by the time he was through the 2nd inning of the game, making one wonder if Gonzalez would have a short night.
Fortunately, Gio was able to perform well enough to take the ballgame into the 6th inning having given up only 1 run on a sacrifice fly. Michael Cuddyer had opened the 4th frame with a double. A groundout by Tyler Colvin set the stage for Jordan Pacheco’s sacrifice fly, that would tie the game at 1 run a piece. The run the Nationals had scored to this point of the game was on the All Star Ian Desmond’s 16th home run of the year, which came in the 2nd inning.
Other than the solo home run to Ian Desmond, Jeff Francis seemed to handle the Nationals lineup pretty well. Francis came out to pitch the bottom of the 6th, then the Nationals jumped on Francis. Danny Espinosa opened the frame with his 20th double of the season. Bryce Harper then singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Josh Roenicke came on in relief of Francis. Ryan Zimmerman greeted Roenicke with a single up the middle that would score Espinosa and put Harper at 3rd. Roenicke would throw a wild pitch that allowed Harper to score and make the score 3-1 in favor of the Nationals. After Michael Morse grounded out and Adam LaRoche drew a walk, Ian Desmond would ground into a fielder’s choice that would move Zimmerman to 3rd and leave Desmond at 1st with LaRoche out at 2nd. Tyler Moore was in the batter’s box when Roenicke would throw the ball away on an errant pickoff attempt that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to score.
The Rockies defense in the game seemed to be making some quality plays early, making good plays to keep the Nationals off the basepaths. However, the Rockies defense came unglued and would ultimately go on to have a total of 4 errors in the game. The errors in Saturday’s game gave the Rockies the most errors by a team in the National League and the 3rd most in the Major Leagues.
The Nationals bullpen was solid against the Colorado Rockies, pitching 3 innings and allowing no runs. Ryan Mattheus came into the game and had one of his best performances of the year, striking out the side on 15 pitches, 11 of which were strikes. Sean Burnett came in during the 8th inning and pitched a scoreless frame and collected a strikeout. Tyler Clippard came in to close the game in the top of the 9th and allowed 2 hits. However, Tyler Clippard continued his excellent performance in the closer’s role and picked up the save, along with 2 strikeouts. The win put the Nationals at 49 wins and 33 losses on the year. The Nationals will send Jordan Zimmermann to the mound on Sunday in an attempt to take the series.