The Nats' first hit off Rockies' starter Jeff Francis came on an opposite-field home run from Ian Desmond in the second inning. Francis lasted five-plus innings, allowing three runs on six hits.
The solo shot was Desmond's 16th of the season, already doubling his entire output from 2011 and putting him one home run short of the franchise (Montreal and Washington) record for home runs hit in a season by a shortstop (Orlando Cabrera hit 17 for Montreal in 2003). It was also his third opposite-field homer in nine games, after having never hit one before in his four-year career.
Desmond, however, will sit out the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City due to lingering oblique issues.
"It's just tough, it's not something that you want to do, withdraw your name from the All-Star Game," Desmond said. "As tough as it sounds, it's harder to do -- especially when you were selected by Tony La Russa personally. It's a just a hard decision to make, period."
While the Braves' Michael Bourn was chosen to take Desmond's spot, the Nationals did manage add another player to the National League All-Star roster when La Russa selected Bryce Harper to the team. Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a run scored, was one of five Final Vote contestants for the NL, though he ultimately finished third in the voting.
"Words can't explain it right now," Harper said. "It's exciting to go, and I'm excited to get there and be around all the top guys in baseball. I'm going to take it all in and try to enjoy it with the family, try to be as mellow and calm as I can."
The rest of the Nats' offense came in the sixth and was due largely to sloppy play by the Rockies. Danny Espinosa led off with a double to right and Harper knocked a single to center. With runners at the corners, Francis was pulled for Josh Roenicke. Four pitches later, Ryan Zimmerman singled, scoring Espinosa and advancing Harper to third. Roenicke then bounced a wild pitch in the dirt and catcher Wilin Rosario made an errant throw to second attempting to nab Zimmerman, allowing Harper to score. Three batters later, Zimmerman scored on an errant pickoff attempt by Roenicke.
The Rockies committed two more errors in the seventh, though the Nationals were unable to score.
"Today wasn't so much about pitching as it was about our lack of offense and the fact we threw the ball around a bit in the sixth inning," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "When you get six hits in a game and one guy gets three of them, there's not a lot of offensive opportunity.
The Rockies' lone run came in the fourth, when Michael Cuddyer doubled to lead off the inning, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jordan Pacheco.
Though he was effective, Gonzalez's pitch count rose quickly in the sweltering heat. He entered the sixth inning on a short leash, having already thrown 87 pitches. After striking out Carlos Gonzalez for the third time in as many at-bats, the Nats' lefty walked Cuddyer on seven pitches. Gonzalez was prepared to fight manager Davey Johnson into letting him finish out the inning, but it never came to that as he recovered quickly, retiring Tyler Colvin and Pacheco with four pitches.
"I'm glad that [Johnson] gave me an opportunity to go out there and at least continue to pitch," said Gonzalez, who tied Livan Hernandez's club record for wins at the break while improving to 12-3. "He could've easily taken me out after I walked [Cuddyer], but that's the confidence we've built between each other. I'll do anything for that manager."
Ryan Mattheus came on for the seventh inning, while the normal routine of Sean Burnett in the eighth and Tyler Clippard in the ninth closed out the game. Clippard collected his 14 save in as many tries since taking over the closer role on May 22.