Harper's big hit saves Max as Nats nip Rox

Harper's big hit saves Max as Nats nip Rox

DENVER -- The Nationals overcame Max Scherzer's shortest start of the season thanks to a pair of homers from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos combined with Bryce Harper's first multi-hit game in more than a month in a 5-4 victory over the Rockies on Monday night at Coors Field.

Scherzer had been dominant for the past two months, pitching himself into the conversation for the National League Cy Young Award. But the Rockies took advantage of a pair of walks to jump Scherzer for three runs in the first and eventually drive him out of the game after the fourth. But left-hander Jorge De La Rosa could not hold the lead. He gave up four runs on six hits in six innings.

Werth matched a franchise record by reaching base for the 43rd consecutive game with a walk in the first inning and then mashed a two-run homer in the third. But perhaps the most encouraging sign of the night came from Harper. He drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with a run-scoring double to help Washington secure its ninth victory in the past 12 games.

Werth's two-run smash

"We're in first place right now. That's the biggest thing for me," Harper said. "As long as we can stay there, and I can get going through August and September and October, I think we'll be OK."

The Rockies have lost eight of their last nine games and dropped to 6 1/2 games out of the second National League Wild Card spot after being 3 games out on Aug. 6.

"We're battling," said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who went 4-for-4. "We're giving everything we've got every night. We're just coming up short and I think that's the most frustrating part, is that we are battling so hard and we don't have a whole lot to show for it these last couple weeks."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Looking like his old self: After sitting out for a week with a stiff neck, Harper moved around healthily on Monday night. He dove for multiple balls in right field and crashed into the wall for another. 

"Tonight I felt great," Harper said. "Arm, head, neck, everything. Left arm, right arm, legs, abs, everything felt good."

Harper's second athletic snag

He reached base all five times and recorded his first three-hit game since June 8, including the go-ahead double in the seventh inning, which he roped at 107.7 mph, according to Statcast™. It was his hardest hit ball since July 22. When Nationals manager Dusty Baker has given a struggling player a day off during the course of the year, he has often asked him to use it as a chance to clear his head or focus on hitting.

"A week is enough to clear anything out," Baker said. "It's great to have Bryce swinging the way he did tonight."

Charlie goes deep … again: Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon hit a two-out solo homer in the fourth inning for his eighth home run in the past week, which gave the Rockies a two-run lead. Although Blackmon, who just earned National League Player of the Week honors Monday, went 1-for-5 on the day, he has a 1.822 OPS since last Tuesday. More >

"He's just in the zone," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's not missing pitches he gets to hit. He's barreling them up hard, and they're carrying over the fence. He's got surprising power, and he's adding on. He can hit the long ball a lot more than he did a few years ago."

Blackmon on tear in August

Shortened Scherzer: Scherzer appeared to have trouble locating his secondary pitches as he labored through his shortest outing of the season. He needed 97 pitches to complete four innings in which he allowed four runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Scherzer had been in a groove recently and had not surrendered four runs or more since June 24.

"I just didn't do a lot of things right tonight," Scherzer said. "Just couldn't get in a groove. They made me work for it. I felt like every single at-bat kept getting grinded out ... but at the same time I've been throwing the ball well, I'm not going to sit here and beat myself up. Just spit this one out and now I get ready for Atlanta."

Scherzer fans Arenado in the 3rd

Once Scherzer left the game, the Nationals' bullpen completed five scoreless innings, including a huge double play by Blake Treinen with two on in the seventh and a four-pitch scoreless ninth for Mark Melancon.

Melancon shuts the door

DJ goes for four: LeMahieu came around to score the first run of the game after singling to right field and would go on to hit three more singles. It's the third time this season and fourth time in his career he's reached the mark, the last of which came on Aug. 5 against Miami. Only three hitters -- Astros' Jose Altuve, Giants' Eduardo Nunez and Tigers' Miguel Cabrera -- have more games with four hits this season.

"He's a really good player," Weiss said. "He gets on base. He has one of the highest averages in the league. He's had a great year, and he's worked real hard to turn himself into this kind of player."

LeMahieu is hitting .337 and is currently second in the NL batting title behind Washington's Daniel Murphy (.347). 

"[DJ] uses the whole field," Weiss said. "Those are the guys that typically you think of in that way as a guy who can win the batting title."

LeMahieu's four-hit game

QUOTABLE
"I thought we did a good job against Scherzer. Getting him out after four innings, you like your chances. But their bullpen came in and shut us down." -- Weiss

Weiss on 5-4 loss to Nationals

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 4.24) will make his first start against the Rockies since 2012 when the Nationals return Tuesday for the second of this three-game set at Coors Field. Gonzalez owns a 2.67 ERA in his five starts since the All-Star break. First pitch is set for 8:40 p.m. ET.

Rockies: Right-hander Chad Bettis (10-6, 5.27) looks to bounce back against the Nationals at 6:40 p.m. MT at Coors Field. He had thrown six straight quality starts before giving up five runs in five innings against the Rangers last Thursday.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.

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