- - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Washington lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, after striking out Trevor Story, took a stroll behind the mound in the top of the first inning Thursday night at Nationals Park.

The veteran pitcher wasn’t just psyched after fanning the Rockies shortstop.

Instead, Gonzalez knew the next Colorado hitter was Ian Desmond, the former Washington shortstop who was with the Nationals from 2009 to 2015.

“I wanted him to enjoy it,” Gonzalez said of his former teammate. “He’s just a great guy.”

The fans gave Desmond a nice reception before he hit a blooper to short right field that second baseman Howie Kendrick missed for an error as a run scored.

The Rockies posted a 5-1 victory on a night the Nationals were sloppy in the field and had just four hits. Colorado starter Chad Bettis gave up just three hits and one run in seven innings.

“You could see the Nationals were off on (their) timing,” said Bud Black, the Rockies manager.

Rockies leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu had two homers, two doubles and a career-high four RBIs. It could have been worse for Washington as Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who hit .331 last year with 104 RBIs and 37 homers, was out of the lineup with right quad tightness.

“He had a good night, for sure,” Black said of LeMahieu. “Really good to see. Led off the game with a homer. Two homers and two doubles, that’s a good night’s work for sure.”

More troubling for the home fans: the Nationals (6-7) are now 2-5 at home this season and are five games back of the red-hot New York Mets, who have won 10 of their first 11.

The trouble began before fans found their seats Thursday as LeMahieu hit the third pitch of the game for a solo homer off lefty Gonzalez for a 1-0 lead.

Colorado made it 3-0 in the second when LeMahieu had an RBI double to right.

Rockies starter pitcher Bettis (2-0 with the win) had allowed just one hit before Kendrick blasted a solo homer over the head of Rockies center fielder Desmond in the fifth to trim the lead to 3-1.

Gonzalez went just five innings and allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

He was replaced by lefty Matt Grace, who gave up a two-run homer to LeMahieu in the sixth.

Bettis was taken out after allowing just three hits and the one run in seven innings, fanning five with two strikeouts. “That was vintage Chad,” Black said. “We saw the four-pitch mix, good depth to the change. Really, really well done.”


Black, a former Major League pitcher, is in his second year as the Colorado skipper.

Black was a candidate for the Nationals managerial spot prior to the 2016 season. But he was not happy with the contract offer, according to published reports, and the job went to Dusty Baker.

Baker was fired after last season, following two division titles in two years with the Nationals.

Black was a teammate with current Washington skipper Dave Martinez with the San Francisco Giants in 1993. The manager of that team was none other than Baker.

“Good teammate. He had a great personality,” Black said of Martinez, who is having a rough start in his first season as a manager.

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