WASHINGTON -- The Nationals gave up a three-run lead in the eighth inning and lost ground in the National League East, as the Rockies took the series opener, 5-4, Friday night on Carlos Gonzalez's go-ahead grand slam.
Nationals reliever Drew Storen was on the mound with a 4-1 lead when the Rockies rallied to take the lead. With a runner at first and two outs, Jose Reyes singled to right, and Nolan Arenado followed with an infield single to load the bases. Gonzalez then hit a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall.
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann received his eighth no-decision, allowing a run in 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The Rockies' bullpen -- Scott Oberg (3-2), John Axford and Tommy Kahnle -- blanked the Nationals over the final three innings after a decent start from Jorge De La Rosa (four runs, three earned). Washington is now 2 1/2 games behind the Mets, who edged the Rays, 4-3, at Tropicana Field.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
CarGone: With one swing in the biggest at-bat of the game, Gonzalez quadrupled Colorado's run production, launching a 114-mph rocket off the back of the wall in the Nationals' right-field bullpen for his 23rd homer of 2015. It was the Rockies' first grand slam of the season and first runs allowed by Storen since June 24. More >
"I know that's my moment," Gonzalez said. "It's important for me to step up for my guys and for the team. I'm hitting in the cleanup spot and that's what we get paid to do."
Four wasn't enough: The Nationals scored four runs on six hits, but they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The hit came in the sixth inning, when Ian Desmond doubled to left field, scoring Bryce Harper.
"It's a tough loss, but tomorrow is a new day," Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "We have two more games against the Rockies. Hopefully, we'll come back, win tomorrow and have a chance to take the series. If we can do that, that's your goal."
Nice outing by Zimm: After surrendering a home run surge in the third inning against the Mets last Sunday, Zimmermann rebounded and pitched into the seventh inning, allowing one run on four hits. He retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced.
"The fastball command was good. I was able to get it in to lefties and away on righties," Zimmermann said. "I was having trouble with that last start against the Mets. But today was a lot better. I could put the fastball where I wanted it."
First save is the sweetest: Kahnle stared down one of baseball's best hitters and did not flinch, striking out Harper with a man on first to record his first career save. The fact that it came on his 26th birthday made it even sweeter. More >
"I went through that situation in my head about a man on first and Harper comes up, and sure enough here it comes," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I thought about putting him on, to be honest with you. But we weren't going to give in, we weren't going to give in to him and try to make him chase. Tommy did a great job."
"We fight, man. Especially the last few weeks. We've had some really tough games, some tough losses. The last road trip we got walked off on three times, but our guys continue to fight. I told them that's the trade-off for competing well and playing in tough close games. Every once in a while you win games like this, too." -- Weiss
"I had a couple of guys get on base for various reasons. I made one bad pitch. It was a fastball over the plate to a really good hitter. It's kind of the nature of business." -- Storen
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Harper walked in the sixth and seventh innings, bringing his season total to 81. He has reached base 200 times in 102 games.
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Right-hander Eddie Butler will start the middle game of the series on Saturday (5:05 p.m. MT), a day after Colorado flipped the order of its starting rotation. Butler (3-8, 5.45 ERA) has made three starts since being recalled from Triple-A, and he allowed seven runs in four innings his last time out.
Nationals: It's the return of right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who on Saturday night (7:05 ET) will be making his first start since July 4. He spent a little more than a month on the disabled list because of a left oblique strain. With Strasburg back in the rotation, Doug Fister was moved to the bullpen.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.