WASHINGTON -- With two-fifths of their rotation in flux thanks to injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, the Nationals will lean more heavily on the veterans in their rotation to give them strong outings similar to the one left-hander Gio Gonzalez turned in to help guide them to a 8-5 victory over the Rockies on Friday night at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez picked up the 100th victory in his career after he held the Rockies to two runs on four hits in six innings with five strikeouts. He was aided by a pair of solo homers from Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy, who drove in two runs and collected the 500th RBI of his career.
"I'm just happy it came," Gonzalez said about his 100th win. "I finally showed up, and I'm happy I did it here with this organization. ... It's something I'm going to cherish tonight, and tomorrow just turn the page."
The Rockies did receive a solid outing from rookie right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who was acquired last season in the trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto and has not been eased into his first two Major League starts. Hoffman has faced the two teams with the best records in the National League -- the Cubs in his debut, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) in four innings -- and the Nationals on Friday -- when he allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings.
"I went in with the same game plan, and I executed the same number of pitches, but they hit two bad pitches out of the park," Hoffman said. "So I'll just get back to work two days from now and figure out how to keep the ball in the ballpark."
Despite a three-run homer in the ninth by Nick Hundley, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, the Rockies dropped their seventh consecutive game on the road and ninth loss in their past 10 games away from Coors Field, thanks in part to some defensive miscues. They made three errors, all of which were forced by the speed of Nationals' center fielder Trea Turner. Washington put the game out of reach with four runs in the seventh inning off Matt Carasiti, aided by a two-run triple by Bryce Harper after center fielder Charlie Blackmon could not make the catch at the wall.
"It wasn't real pretty," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss, whose team is 6-15 since peaking above .500 at 54-53 on Aug. 3. "Unfortunately, that's the second time in a row we haven't played real well behind Hoffman. We've made him have to get extra outs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Milestone victory: On his third try, Gonzalez finally achieved his 100th career victory. He had given up the lead twice right after the Nationals had scored, on a sacrifice fly to Daniel Descalso in the second to tie the game at 1, then on back-to-back doubles to Ryan Raburn and Hundley to tie the game at 2 in the fourth. But Gonzalez still turned in a strong outing and perhaps could have pitched longer if his spot in the lineup had not come up in the sixth inning.
"I was just trying to help the team as much as possible and go out there and try to get a win every start," he said. "I'm just glad it's done with and now we can continue to go out there and play baseball, but again the bullpen helped me get to where I'm at now, and the offense has been incredible. Eight runs does help a little bit, so a big thank you to them for helping me get there." More >
Picking his spots: Hoffman was hit hard by the top of the lineup, but he took advantage of the lower part of the order to escape jams in the fourth and sixth. With the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth, he forced a Jose Lobaton double play and a Gonzalez popup to escape with one run scoring, and he pitched around two walks to finish the sixth with a line drive from lefty pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo -- when Nats manager Dusty Baker lifted Gonzalez in an effort to extend the lead.
"He's got a good fastball," Weiss said. "When he commands it, he's going to get people out. His breaking ball was a little better as he got deeper into the game." More >
Career year continues: Murphy launched his 25th home run of the season in the fifth, a solo blast that landed 425 feet away, per Statcast™, in center field. He has hit more homers this season than he did the past two years combined (23). It also marked the 500th RBI of his career, nearly one-fifth of which have come this season, as he now has 98 RBIs on the year.
Carasiti adds to bullpen struggles: After standout work in Double- and Triple-A (1.96 ERA in 46 innings), righty Carasiti, 25, was charged with four earned runs in the seventh and has a 12.27 ERA through his first seven Major League appearances. In the past three games of an 0-4 road trip, the Rockies' relief staff has been torched for 13 runs (all earned) in seven innings.
"He's got stuff; he's going to be a good one, 95-96 [mph] with the fastball, and he's got a split-finger that disappears," Weiss said. "But when you're always working from behind -- he's trying to do too much. He may be overthrowing. He's another one of those young kids we've got in the bullpen that's learning on the job.
"It's not just young kids. There are a handful of guys that are searching for it out there."
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"That's that old expression, 'speed kills.' When you can run, you make people rush. And if people rush in this game, most of the time they're not themselves, and most of the time they're going to make mistakes. That's what Trea does. Any ball that he hits, you got to field it cleanly and throw it correctly." -- Baker, on Turner's speed forcing the Rockies to make errors
The Nationals used their challenge after Harper was called out at second base on an apparent double in the first inning. It took 36 seconds for the replay official to review all relevant angles and overturn the call, making Harper safe.
Rockies: Lefty Jorge De La Rosa (8-7, 5.07 ERA) has had a 3.32 ERA in his last seven road starts, with six quality starts. He hopes to keep it going and pull his team out of its funk against the Nats on Saturday at 11:05 a.m. MT.
Nationals:A.J. Cole (0-1, 5.14 ERA) will make his second start of the season in place of the injured Strasburg. On Monday, Cole lasted a career-high seven innings against the Orioles with eight strikeouts. This will be his first career start at Nationals Park.
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