WASHINGTON — The Rockies’ investments paid a big dividend Friday night.
Carlos Gonzalez, who returned to Colorado on a one-year, $8 million deal, hit a homer, drove in both runs and had two of the Rockies’ five hits in a 2-1 victory over the Nationals.
The bullpen blanked Washington for 4 ⅓ innings to secure the Rockies’ third consecutive victory. Right-hander Bryan Shaw (a three-year, $27 million contract) pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two. Closer Wade Davis (three years, $52 million) pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two, to notch his sixth save in seven chances.
It wasn’t too long ago that Gonzalez, perched in right field, would look on with trepidation whenever Rockies relievers entered the game.
“It’s a tremendous difference,” he said. “These guys are horses. They’ll go out there and we feel confident playing behind them, knowing they are going to keep the game sane.”
The Rockies carved out a 2-1 lead in the sixth with DJ LeMahieu reaching on an error by shortstop Trea Turner and advanced to third on Gerardo Parra‘s single to left. Gonzalez drove in LeMahieu with a sacrifice fly to right.
This was the kind of game manager Bud Black relishes, in part because of the strategy involved, and also because it tests his team’s mettle.
“It was a well-pitched game,” Black said. “It was one of those types of games where every pitch is critical.”
Colorado escaped a possible meltdown in the fifth. The Nationals loaded the bases with one out against starter Kyle Freeland on a bloop single to shallow right by stater Tanner Roark, a walk by Turner and a single up the middle by Anthony Rendon. Up stepped perennial MVP candidate Bryce Harper, who hit a sacrifice fly to Gerardo Parra in left, tying the game 1-1.
Black figured the time was right to relieve Freeland, and he was right. Oberg entered in relief, getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground out to short. Freeland allowed just one run on four hits, but he walked four and needed 101 pitches to get through 4 ⅔ innings.
“It was a battle out there; they kept fouling stuff off,” Freeland said. “But were were able to come out of it with a win.”
Freeland was able to make some big pitches when he needed to.
“I was happy with that aspect of it,” Freeland said. “Where they had a lot of runners on in certain innings, me and (catcher Chris) Iannetta were able to minimize damage of have no damage at all. That came with good sequencing and executing pitches.”
With two out in the fourth, Gonzalez picked out Roark’s 2-0, 82 mph changeup and then unleashed his sweet swing to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. Gonzalez knew the ball was gone as soon as he hit it, and after a classic bat flip, he got to admire the ball’s flight deep into the right-field seats. It was Gonzalez’s third homer of the season. He didn’t hit his third homer last year until May 21.
Rockies RHP Jon Gray (1-2, 5.63 ERA) at Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (2-1, 0.90), 11:05 a.m. Saturday; ATTRM, 850 AM
Jon Gray dreams about becoming one of baseball’s elite pitchers. Saturday afternoon, he’ll face one of the best in Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Scherzer is coming off a dominating performance vs. the Braves on Monday in which he allowed only two hits over nine shutout innings while striking out 10. He commanded his pitches all night, throwing 72 of 102 pitches for strikes en route to his fifth career shutout. Gray’s season has been a roller coaster — two bad dips with one triumph in the middle. The Padres ripped him for seven runs on 10 hits with two homers last Monday at Coors Field. Gray thought his stuff was excellent, but conceded that he threw too many mistake pitches. He’ll have to be nearly perfect to beat Scherzer.
Sunday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (0-0, 5.65) at Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 2.21), 11:35 a.m., ATTRM
Monday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (0-1, 4.97) at Pirates LHP Steven Brault (2-0, 3.46), 5:05 p.m., ATTRM
Tuesday: Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (2-0, 2.04) at Pirates RHP Trevor Williams (3-0, 1.56), 5:05 p.m., ATTRM