“They didn’t hit the ball that hard today,” Detwiler said. “There was two hard-hit balls, and everything else just fell in. Maybe look at a guy like [Ian] Krol who strikes everybody out. Maybe I should just start doing that.”
The Nationals generated ample chances. They scored twice in the fourth on RBI outs from Marrero and Kurt Suzuki but went 1 for 10 with runners in position and left 10 men on base through seven innings. In the end, they turned 13 hits and five walks into six runs.
The most painful — and strategically intriguing — wasted chance came in the seventh inning. Desmond drew a two-out walk off right-handed reliever Rob Scahill to load the bases for Marrero. Johnson could have sent LaRoche to hit, which would have drawn lefty reliever Josh Outman — who is holding lefties to a .185 average this year— from the bullpen.
Rockies Manager Walt Weiss seemed to anticipate it — he climbed up the dugout steps and took a step out, only to turn around as Marrero strolled into the batter’s box. Johnson wanted to imbue confidence in a young hitter.
“It’s a long season, and some of these guys, I’m not going to just completely take the bat [out of their hand] unless it’s the tying run or something,” Johnson said. “They’ve got to contribute and do the things I know they’re capable of doing. I want to show them I have confidence in them in those situations.”
Marrero could not validate Johnson’s belief. He popped up the first pitch he saw to right field. “I don’t like that he gets the first fastball in the middle and goes the other way with it,” Johnson said.
Afterward, LaRoche did not protest being left on the bench. “If you looked at my pinch-hit numbers,” he said, “I’d probably never pinch-hit again.” In his career, he is 14 for 65 with three extra-base hits as a pinch hitter.
The Nationals finally struck in the eighth, loading the bases with one out against setup man Matt Belisle. Anthony Rendon struck out, but Zimmerman hit a chopper up the middle that shortstop Josh Rutledge kicked into shallow right field. Zimmerman was given a single, and an extra run scored as Rutledge chased down his error.
Weiss called for lefty reliever Rex Brothers to face Bernadina, Werth’s replacement. Johnson countered with Solano, whose last hit came June 12.
“I’m ready all the time,” Solano said.
Brothers left a first-pitch slider up and over the plate, and Solano drilled a double to the left-center field gap. Zimmerman sprinted home from first to slice the Nationals’ deficit to one.
There is probably no hitter they would have wanted at the plate representing the go-ahead run more than Desmond, who has delivered clutch hits all month. But he struck out on three pitches, stranding his fifth runner of the day.
The Nationals, at least, had made their presence felt. But they finished another day having yet to sustain any kind of charge, instead wondering how — and when — it might happen.