- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Early on, Stephen Strasburg didn’t have his best stuff and yet the powerful right-hander tried to bear down to keep his team close.

Almost paid off, too.

The Washington Nationals loaded the bases in the ninth before falling 6-4 to Jorge De La Rosa and the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

Strasburg (7-8) settled in after a shaky start, giving up four runs - three of which were in the first - and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings.

“Giving up three runs early, I could’ve easily shut it down,” Strasburg said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it as close as possible. Give the guys a chance to come back - anything can happen here.”

And almost did.

Closer LaTroy Hawkins got the first two outs in the ninth, before allowing RBI singles to Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon to make it a 6-4 game. With the bases loaded, Hawkins struck out Ian Desmond to end the rally.

“You have to tip your cap sometimes. He did a good job,” Desmond said. “He made some pitches on me.

“We did a good job battling back right there. We kept on grinding away. I’ll take us in that situation a lot of times.”

Denard Span had four hits for the Nationals, who finished the season series 5-1 against Colorado. He was one of the few to have success against De La Rosa, who gave the Rockies a badly needed boost as they snapped a seven-game skid.

“Jorge, another great outing. He did it again,” manager Walt Weiss said. “We’re scuffling like crazy and he takes the ball and gives us a great performance and wins the game.”

The Rockies tried a little bit of everything to break out of their funk. They wore their socks high and even engaged in a pregame staring contest.

Turns out, the best cure for their slump was simply the left arm of De La Rosa.

De La Rosa (11-6) struck out a season-high 11 as he pitched efficiently into the eighth inning. He kept the Nationals guessing by effectively mixing in a changeup with his 89-mph cutter.

“All my pitches were working really good today,” said De La Rosa, who allowed two runs - one earned - before being lifted for a reliever with one out in the eighth. “My command of all my pitches was really good today.”

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