DENVER — If the rest of the 2011 season is intended to, on some nights, serve as an audition for the Washington Nationals' young pitching corps, Thursday night was a perfect example of how not every outing will go as planned.
In his first start since July 5, Nationals starter Ross Detwiler took the mound as the first of what Nationals manager Davey Johnson said could be a host of young arms to get a chance at the major league level. Once he got there, though, Detwiler didn't do a whole lot to distinguish himself. But he wasn't alone, as Washington's relievers and hitters didn't do much to make positive impression, either.
It all amounted to a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in which the offense could generate one run on 10 baserunners against Colorado's starter Esmil Rogers, who entered the game with a 7.31 ERA.
"I felt like we let [Rogers] off the hook," Johnson said. "He's got a good arm but he made a lot of bad pitches and we just didn't capitalize."
Detwiler, who worked out of the Nationals' bullpen for the past month, threw 3 1/3 hitless innings to open the game. But in his first start at Coors Field since a disastrous outing in 2009 in which he allowed six runs in four innings, he faded in the fourth and fifth. He surrendered all five hits, all three of his walks and all of his runs in those frames, allowing the Rockies to score a run in each and go ahead, 2-1. Suddenly his sinker wasn't working, and he wasn't going to his breaking pitches as much as he normally does, leaving flat fastballs for the Rockies' hitters to take advantage of.
"I don't think I threw well enough today to keep us in the game and to win the game," Detwiler said. "I probably could do a few things better."
So, too, could his offense, which put eight runners on base in the game's first five innings but drove in only one. For the game, they were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Ryan Zimmerman's two-run double in the ninth inning gave the facade of a closer game but ultimately Washington's relievers made sure it was put out of reach earlier. Collin Balester served up a Troy Tulowitzki home run to lead off the sixth. And Ryan Mattheus allowed three runs in the eighth to give the Rockies a 6-1 lead.
"We had [Rogers] in trouble three innings in a row and we never got to him," Johnson said. "Everybody else seems to, but we didn't. We had the right guys up there, we just didn't make it happen and the offense has got to do that. We woke up in the ninth but it was too late."
The Nationals dropped to 21-35 on the road this season, compared to a 32-23 mark at home, and it was another night where missed opportunity loomed large — especially after their pitching did them no favors in the late innings.
"When it comes down to it, you just have to come through and execute," Zimmerman said. "We couldn't really get that big hit. We had a couple chances but we kind of, I guess, let them off the hook a little bit."
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