Arenado flirts with cycle as Rockies edge Nats

Arenado flirts with cycle as Rockies edge Nats

WASHINGTON -- Nolan Arenado proved to be too much for the Nationals. He drove in three runs and was a double short of the cycle as he helped the Rockies defeat the Nats, 5-3, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon. The Rox have been tough on postseason contenders, going 8-4 against the Nationals and Cubs this season.

"It's still frustrating, knowing that we beat the best team, and then we lose to teams that aren't really in the race," said Arenado, whose Rockies won two of three in Washington after being swept in Milwaukee. "We've got to find a way to put it all together. But it feels good. I'm going home happy."

It was Arenado who gave Colorado the first run of the game in the first inning. With right-hander Lucas Giolito on the mound bidding for his first career victory, Arenado singled to left field, scoring Charlie Blackmon.

The Nationals would tie the game in the bottom of the frame, when Trea Turner swung at a 2-1 pitch from Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis and hit the ball into the left-field stands.

Turner's leadoff home run

But Colorado retook the lead in the third inning, when Arenado hit a two-run homer -- his 35th of the season -- and David Dahl went back-to-back with his fifth of the year. Bettis (11-7) -- who walked a career-high seven at Milwaukee while losing his last start -- took advantage of the situation and pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out six batters.

Dahl crushes a solo home run

"It was fun today," Bettis said. "Everything was working."

Bettis' head where it should be in sharp start

Bettis' outstanding start

The Nationals made it interesting the ninth, when Bryce Harper homered off Boone Logan to make it a two-run game. But right-hander Adam Ottavino blanked the Nats the rest of the way and picked up his second save of the season.

Ottavino earns second save

Keeping cool: The Nationals' big chance came in the fifth, with the Rockies up, 4-1. Singles by Danny Espinosa and Turner, with a Giolito sacrifice bunt between, put runners at the corners, but Bettis induced a double-play grounder fromBen Revere. The only man to reach after Turner was Wilson Ramos, who hit his 20th homer of the season to open the seventh.

"The double play he got in the fifth was big," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That was a game-changer."

LeMahieu ignites smooth 4-6-3 DP

Ouch … but a run: The Rockies padded the lead in the eighth on a play that was unusual by any measure, and painful for home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski. Daniel Descalso doubled with one out, and he scored from second with two down to give Colorado a 5-2 lead when Nats righty Koda Glover's pitch hit Muchlinski in the left shoulder and bounced to the backstop. Ramos, the catcher, checked briefly on Muchlinski, but the ricochet was so odd that he might not have retrieved the ball in time to retire Descalso anyway.

"I've seen guys score from second on wild pitches, but I don't know if I've ever seen one hit the umpire. … But it got him good," Weiss said. "You don't like for the umpire to have to wear one like that. It ended up being a pretty big run for us at the time."

Descalso home from second on WP

Said Glover, "Me and Ramos got crossed up. I thought he put down a different pitch. It's on me. I screwed the umpire up. Honestly, I don't know how that run is able to score. At most, I thought he would be told to go to third. That's just baseball. Ramos was checking on [the umpire]. He was more worried about him and I was, too. It's just one of those crazy things that baseball pulls out." More >

Giolito is decent: Giolito threw five innings, the most he has pitched in the big leagues thus far. He had only one poor inning, when he allowed the two home runs in the third. Giolito ended up losing his first game of his big league career.

"It's that one bad inning that does you in," manager Dusty Baker said. "Today, he had Arenado, 0-2, he was trying to get a ball in a place where he didn't get it in. It was right down the middle. The next batter, Dahl, came up and deposited the ball into left-center field. That was that one bad inning. He threw the ball better than he had been, but his pitch count got high in a hurry."

Giolito said he has to be better at getting ahead of hitters and finishing them off with the pitch he wants to throw.

"The way I was pitching in Triple-A recently, I wouldn't say it was an improvement," Giolito said. "I have been pitching a lot better. I figured some things out. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to execute on a few pitches today. That lost the game for us." More >

"Well, I wanted it. It's funny because of all the things, we went 1-2-3 in the ninth inning. It feels like we never go 1-2-3, ever. It's kind of a weird thing, but it's all good." -- Arenado, on being on deck when the Rockies' ninth ended and not having a chance at the cycle

The most surprising event of the game was Harper's ninth-inning leadoff homer against Logan, who had dominated Washington. The homer was just the second hit off Logan, who struck out five of the 14 Nats batters he faced this season. Ottavino replaced Logan and fanned two of the three men he faced.

Harper's solo big fly

Arenado leads the Majors with 32 RBIs this month, and he is one shy of Andres Galarraga's club record for August (33, 1996).

Rockies: Righty Jon Gray, who owns the club rookie record for strikeouts with 142 and fanned 10 against the Brewers in his last start, will open a series against the Dodgers on Monday at 6:40 p.m. MT.

Nationals: The Nationals travel to Philadelphia to play a three-game series against the Phillies. In the first game, which starts at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday, right-hander Tanner Roark will get the nod for Washington. In his last start against the Orioles, Roark was off from the start, hit hard for five runs (four earned) on seven hits over five innings to take the loss.

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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.