Struggles at the plate are leaving the Washington Nationals little margin for error on the mound.
That's been particularly evident during a recent stretch for the NL East leaders.
Washington (41-30) leads the division despite ranking near the bottom of the league in average (.238) and runs per game (3.71). That lack of production has put added pressure on a staff that's the best in baseball with a 2.97 ERA.
Overcoming those offensive shortcomings has become increasingly difficult for the Nationals, who have hit .200 and scored 25 runs while losing seven of 10. Their pitchers have compiled a 3.13 ERA during those games.
Even facing the lowly Rockies (28-44), who are last in the majors with a 5.29 ERA, couldn't inject some life into Washington's offense. Stephen Strasburg 's six-start winning streak was snapped as the Nationals went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-2 loss Monday night.
Gonzalez (9-3, 2.55 ERA), among the league leaders with 101 strikeouts and a .182 opponents' average, hasn't needed much help on the road. The left-hander has won five of his last six starts away from home, posting a 1.98 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 36 1-3 innings.
He limited visiting Tampa Bay to two runs and seven hits over six innings of a 5-2 victory Thursday.
The 19-year-old is 4 for 23 with one RBI in his last seven games after going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Monday.
"I've seen him with all kinds of contraptions (on his back), but I think right now it's for prevention," manager Davey Johnson told the team's official website.
The rookie left-hander is 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in his last three starts, giving up six homers in 15 innings. Friedrich has struggled even more at home, going 1-2 with a 12.60 ERA.
Monday's win was only the fourth in 18 games for the Rockies, who had dropped six in a row at Coors Field."It is a good win, but only one win," Helton said. "We need to get a few more of these to get our season going."
Helton and Dexter Fowler have been bright spots lately for Colorado.
Helton has five hits over the last three games, and drove in the go-ahead run Monday with a sacrifice fly. Fowler is 9 for 20 over the last six contests.
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|June 06, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained right index finger|
|May 30, 2012||Carlos Maldonado||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 17, 2012||Carlos Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Sore right hamstring|
|June 03, 2012||Juan Nicasio||15-Day DL||Strained left knee|
|June 02, 2012||Jordan Pacheco||Day-to-Day||Sore left quadricep|
|June 02, 2012||Juan Nicasio||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left knee|
|May 31, 2012||Troy Tulowitzki||15-Day DL||Strained left groin muscle|
|May 24, 2012||Ramon Hernandez||15-Day DL||Strained muscle, left hand|
DENVER (AP) -- The Washington Nationals ' record-setting night at the plate gave the pitchers a rare easy night.
Adam LaRoche homered twice, Ryan Zimmerman collected his 1,000th career hit and also homered, and the Nationals routed the Colorado Rockies 12-5 on Tuesday night.
Ian Desmond went 4 for 4, Michael Morse had four hits and Tyler Moore also connected for the Nationals, who had a season-high 21 hits, which tied the club mark since the team moved to Washington in 2005.
They had 11 extra-base hits, the most since becoming the Nationals.
"Our hitting coach is a genius," manager Davey Johnson said. "What can I say?"
The Nationals scored just seven runs in losing three of their last four games, but broke out in a big way against Colorado. Every starter had a hit, including pitcher Gio Gonzalez , while rolling up a season high in runs.
It's just the second time in June the Nationals have won a game by more than three runs.
"We knew we had a good offense. We knew at some point we'd come around. We're too good a team not to score runs all year long," Zimmerman said. "Lucky for us, we have a real good pitching staff that's been the backbone of this team and helped us get to where we are now."
Zimmerman entered the game with 998 career hits and reached the 1,000 mark in his third at-bat, a single to right in the fifth inning. He added his fourth home run of the season in the sixth to finish with three hits.
"Any time you can do anything where it takes a long time in this league is meaningful," he said. "It's something I'll look back on. Hopefully, I'll have a lot more."
The game was close when the Nationals broke it open in the fifth against reliever Guillermo Moscoso . Desmond had a two-run double and Moore a three-run homer in a five-run outburst that made it 9-3. Zimmerman hit a solo homer and LaRoche hit his second of the game, a two-run shot, in the sixth to make it 12-4.
Moscoso gave up eight earned runs in just 1 2-3 innings.
"It's frustrating," he said. "I had been throwing the ball well and I get in the game and I couldn't make good pitches. I couldn't get my pitches in the right spot."
The five runs in the fifth were the most in any inning this season and a welcome sight for a team that has struggled at the plate while dropping seven of 11.
"A lot of guys needed to come out of slumps they were in, and that was a good night for it. We needed it," Johnson said. "The guys have been pressing a little bit. Tonight was welcome."
Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera homered and Jordan Pacheco had three hits for the Rockies, who have dropped 15 of 19.
Gonzalez (10-3) picked up the win despite allowing five runs, four earned, on eight hits in six innings. He struck out seven.
Working with a big lead, he challenged hitters and gave up solo homers to Fowler and Herrera in the fifth and sixth innings.
"They were swinging the bat," Gonzalez said. "It's a tough ballpark to pitch in, but you still have to go out there and pound the strike zone, get my team back to the dugout and let them swing the bat."
Working within the 75-pitch limit set by the Rockies, starter Christian Friedrich (4-5) left after retiring Bryce Harper on his 70th pitch to lead off the fifth. He allowed four runs on nine hits and struck out three in 4 1-3 innings.
LaRoche put Washington up 1-0 in the second with his 14th home run of the season. Morse's two-run double in the third made it 3-0.
"Christian did well. I'm not so sure LaRoche didn't break his bat on the home run," manager Jim Tracy said. "And the two-run double Morse hit with two outs with second and third, the way the wind was blowing helped that."
Colorado tied it in its half of the inning on Carlos Gonzalez 's RBI double and run-scoring singles from Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton . Cuddyer scored on Harper's throwing error to make it 3-3.
Gio Gonzalez made it 4-3 with a two-out RBI single in the fourth.
NOTES: Before the game, Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca asked to be reassigned and he was made a special assistant to GM Dan O'Dowd. Bullpen coach Jim Wright and Triple-A pitching coach Bo McLaughlin will serve as co-pitching coaches for the remainder of the season. ... The last player in the Washington/Montreal Expos franchise to record his 1,000th career hit was Jose Vidro , who did it June 17, 2004, as a member of the Expos. ... LaRoche now has 17 career multihomer games. ... The Nationals will send RHP Jordan Zimmermann (3-6) to the mound Wednesday. The Rockies are expected to call up LHP Edwar Cabrera from Double-A to start for Colorado.