Rockies fall to Nats, drop into NL West tie with Dodgers
DENVER (AP) — Stephen Strasburg did the Colorado Rockies and their NL West title hopes no favors by shutting them down.
The Washington Nationals may be doing the Rockies a big favor in scratching NL Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer from his start for the final game.
At this point, Colorado will take all the breaks it can get.
The Rockies dropped into a tie with Los Angeles for the NL West lead with only one game left, routed by Strasburg, Juan Soto and the Nationals 12-2 Saturday night.
Hoping to hold their one-game edge, the Rockies instead saw their winning streak end at eight. The Dodgers were 10-6 winners in San Francisco earlier, ensuring the race will go down to the wire.
“It going to be fun. You’ve got to relish this moment,” Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “Obviously, I wish we won the division weeks ago, but that’s not the position we’re in. We’re lucky to be in this position. We’re enjoying it and we’ll be ready to go.”
With game No. 162 on deck, the Rockies (90-71) are attempting to accomplish something they’ve never done since entering the league in 1993: capture a division title. They thought for sure Sunday they were going to face Scherzer, who has a league-high 300 strikeouts this season. Instead, they’ll get little-known righty Erick Fedde.
“We’re going to have to go out there and just try to play good baseball,” Carlos Gonzalez said.
If Los Angeles and Colorado finish tied, there will be a one-game tiebreaker for the West title Monday at Dodger Stadium. The loser will become a wild card.
Colorado celebrated earning a postseason spot Friday night, even breaking out the bubbly. But the team looked flat from the start as the Nationals grabbed an early 5-0 lead on Jon Gray (12-9) to zap the energy from a sellout crowd at Coors Field.
Gray’s night started in a painful way when he was drilled in the back by a liner from Adam Eaton on the second pitch of the game. Gray remained on the mound, but was ineffective. He was tagged for five runs in two innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
“It’s really frustrating for me. I’m sure it’s more frustrating for the fans,” Gray said. “It’s been a rough year for me, but I can’t wait to prove everybody wrong and actually show them what I’m about.”
Soto set the tone with a two-run double in the first and Trea Turner added a two-run homer an inning later.
The 19-year-old Soto also lined a solo drive to right in the fifth. He has 22 homers this season, tying him with Bryce Harper (2012) for the second-most by a teenager. The record is 24 by Boston’s Tony Conigliaro in 1964.
“I’m aware of records. I want to get them,” Soto said. “To have the records held by Hall of Famers.”
Strasburg (10-7) effectively mixed his fastball with his change to hit double-digit wins for the fifth straight season. He struck out seven and allowed two runs on solo homers by Gonzalez and Arenado over six innings.
“This is the way we wanted him to finish the season — to go into the offseason healthy and be looking ahead to next year,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.
The win assured the Nationals of finishing with a winning record for a seventh straight season.
As for the Rockies, Gonzalez has some simple advice in regard to Saturday’s loss: Turn the page. Fast.
“Whenever we face adversity, we’re pretty good at” bouncing back, Gonzalez said.
Nationals: Martinez won’t take any risks with INF Ryan Zimmerman’s sore back. “The last thing I want to do is have him re-injure himself really bad and have to rehab for two months over the winter time,” Martinez said.
THIS & THAT
Washington was able to keep Rockies OF David Dahl in the park, which has been no easy feat these days. Dahl’s streak of homering in five straight games was ended. ... Turner is hitting .413 at Coors Field in nine career games, with five doubles, three triples and three homers.
Martinez signed off on outfielder Victor Robles’ desire to play winter ball. Robles missed time earlier this season with an elbow injury.
“I told him don’t play the whole season” of winter ball, Martinez said. “Take it easy because you’re going to play a lot of baseball come 2019.”
LHP Tyler Anderson (6-9, 4.76 ERA) is set to start for the Rockies. Scherzer (18-7, 2.53) had been expected to pitch for the Nationals, but it will be Fedde (2-3, 5.24).
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