The Washington Nationals have provided Jordan Zimmermann with plenty of support over his last two starts but he might not need as much help in the next one, judging by his recent outings against the Colorado Rockies .
While attempting to win a third consecutive start, the right-hander will also try to earn a fourth straight win over Colorado on Sunday.
Zimmermann (5-6, 2.70 ERA) has given up three or fewer runs in each of his last six outings but he was winless over the first four games of that stretch in part because Washington (49-33) provided him with a combined nine runs.
That changed with an 11-5 win over Colorado (32-52) on June 27, and he followed by giving up two runs and seven hits over a rain-shortened six innings in a 9-3 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday.
"It's nice. (The runs are) starting to come around and score early, and give (me) a little room to breathe out there," Zimmermann said.
The right-hander has usually given himself breathing room against the Rockies, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA over the last three matchups. He gave up one run and scattered eight hits over seven innings during last month's game at Coors Field.
Zimmermann might need another strong outing Sunday with the Nationals' bats having cooled off following a sizzling stretch. Washington has produced a combined five runs and 12 hits over the first two games of the series after batting .344 with 75 runs scored over the previous nine contests.
The Nationals, though, had enough offense to earn a 4-1 win Saturday, their fifth in six games this month, and took advantage of the Rockies' season high-tying four errors. Ian Desmond hit a solo homer, his third in five games, on the same day he decided to skip next week's All-Star game due to a nagging abdominal injury.
"It's definitely a tough decision, one that we spent quite a few days kind of mulling over," Desmond said. "But in the end I think it's best for the team and best for myself to take the rest. I would hate to be two, three weeks down the road and something happened and I didn't take the four days to rest my body and put the team first."
Jeremy Guthrie (3-8, 6.28) will try to help his club bounce back by building on a solid performance in his return to the rotation.
The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits over six innings Wednesday in his first start since June 17 but was a 4-1 loser to St. Louis.
"It's important for teammates to recognize where I've come up short this year," he told the team's website. "Everybody's making moves to help the team, and hopefully I can stay positive."
Guthrie has dropped five consecutive decisions and four in a row as a starter, but he might have a chance to end that drought Sunday. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals and gave up two unearned runs over seven innings in an 8-3 win for Baltimore on May 21, 2011.
|July 04, 2012||Jason Giambi||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|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|
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|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|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Nationals were stunned. They just aren't used to teams coming back against them late in the game.
Washington's usually reliable bullpen failed to protect a two-run lead, and the result was a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday that will linger on the Nationals' minds until after the All-Star break.
To some, the defeat was a blip in an otherwise outstanding season. To others, it was a reminder that past performances mean nothing.
Up 3-1 entering the eighth inning, Washington couldn't finish off the last-place Rockies. The setback cost the Nationals a chance to hit the All-Star break with their best record since the team moved to Washington in 2005.
Nationals reliever Sean Burnett , who came in with a 1.42 ERA, gave up two runs in the eighth - including a drive by pinch-hitter Eric Young for his first homer since Sept. 8, 2009.
"Unfortunately, you can't get the ball and go out there tomorrow," Burnett said. "You have to wait a few days until the break's over. It's going to be nice to have these four days off and relax with the family, but you would like to go out on a better note than that."
Despite the loss, Washington finished the first half with an NL-best 49-34 record.
Tyler Clippard , who gave up the tiebreaking run in the ninth, said: "Any time it doesn't go your way it's frustrating, but we can't really hang our heads. We've been playing well as a team. We have the All-Star game to regroup for a great second half. ... I think we're all satisfied with where we are right now."
Young homered leading off the eighth and Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Michael Gonzalez came in and threw his first wild pitch of the year, allowing the tying run to score.
Colorado made it 4-3 against Clippard (2-3), who walked to the mound with a 1.78 ERA. Jordan Pacheco led off with a double to left, took third on a sacrifice and raced home on Clippard's first wild pitch of the season.
The collapse proved that Washington's bullpen isn't perfect, something to think about during the break.
"I look at it as good timing," Clippard said. "You don't ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there, so this is a little check for ourselves."
Rex Brothers (4-2) worked the eighth and Rafael Betancourt got his 15th save, striking out pinch-hitter Jesus Flores with two outs and runners at second and third.
Fowler had two singles for his fourth straight multihit game for the Rockies, who took two of three from the NL East-leading Nationals. Colorado also won the season series 4-3.
"I'm really proud of the way the club played in this series," manager Jim Tracy said. "To win this series, to win the season series against them, you look for little incremental things in relation to where we're at and where we're trying to get to, and you feel awfully good about the way we gutted that thing out today."
Ian Desmond homered and Adam LaRoche had two hits and scored a run for the Nationals.
"Everybody feels good, and they're looking for the break," manager Davey Johnson said. "They've battled hard. We've had a lot of close games. It's a good time for a break."
Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann gave up one run and three hits over seven innings. He left with a two-run lead, but the bullpen promptly gave it away.
Colorado's comeback enabled Jeremy Guthrie to avoid his ninth loss. Guthrie allowed two runs, six hits and a walk in six innings.
Desmond removed himself from the All-Star game Saturday with a strained left oblique, but the injury wasn't evident 24 hours later. His 17th home run, a two-run drive in the fourth inning, gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Over his last 13 games, Desmond is 21 for 51 (.412) with 14 extra-base hits, including six homers, and 15 RBIs.
Early on, both teams squandered chances to take control.
The Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but scored only one run, on a sacrifice fly by former Nationals catcher Wil Nieves .
Fowler drew a leadoff walk in the third and advanced to third with one out but was stranded.
Washington got a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings before breaking through in the fourth. LaRoche led off with a double and Desmond followed with a drive over the center-field wall on a 3-2 pitch.
A run-scoring single by Steve Lombardozzi made it 3-1 in the seventh.
NOTES: Depending on how Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are used in the All-Star game, Johnson said his rotation for after the break would be Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Strasburg and Edwin Jackson . Johnson hopes to limit Strasburg's innings in the second half, which could be why he's being pushed back. ... Guthrie is winless since May 31. ... Washington stole six bases. ... Zimmermann has worked at least six innings in all 17 starts this season.