Two wild pitches essentially kept them from taking the game and the series from the visiting Rockies. While players admitted it was frustrating to lose, what happened on Sunday isn’t any cause for alarm. They will enter the all-star break with the National League’s best record (49-34). They hold a four-game lead in the National League East. They have four all-stars, the most they’ve had since baseball returned. Things are different here.
“We can’t let tonight affect what we did the last three months,” reliever Sean Burnett said.
On a starting rotation that features two all-stars, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann continued his consistent, inning-churning ways. Shortstop Ian Desmond, an all-star that had to pull out of the game because of injury, maintained his torrid hitting pace in his breakout season. But Washington’s bullpen, a point of strength this season, faltered for the first time in 11 days.
“They’ve been having our backs in some tight situations all year,” Zimmermann said. “This one got away. We gotta move past it and focus on the second half.”
Zimmermann’s seven-inning gem began unraveling when the bullpen took over on an unbearably humid afternoon. Players escaped the 95-degree heat and sticky air by retreating to the air-conditioned clubhouse and adjacent tunnel during the game. Zimmermann withstood it well, cruising through the Rockies’ lineup. Despite that, Manager Davey Johnson watched Zimmermann hitter by hitter in the seventh inning and wasn’t going to let him continue in the heat.
Johnson handed the ball and a 3-1 lead to Burnett. Normally a two-run lead secured under the starter has meant little trouble for the bullpen and in particular Burnett, who entered with a 1.42 ERA.
But pinch hitter Eric Young Jr. hit Burnett’s fourth pitch, a sinker, out to left field for a solo home run in the eighth inning. He faced two more batters, and gave up singles to each of them. Michael Gonzalez replaced Burnett with no outs.
“Just one of those things it didn’t go my way today,” Burnett said. “Unfortunately you can’t get the ball and go out there tomorrow.”
With runners on first and third and with a 2-2 count on Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Gonzalez tossed a low slider away in the dirt, looking for the strikeout. The ball was too far outside and bounced, and catcher Jhonatan Solano couldn’t stop it. Dexter Fowler safely scored from third.