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Missed chances haunt Nationals in loss to Rox

Harper homers early, but team unable to capitalize on 10 walks issued
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Jackie Robinson Day began on a high note for the Nationals, as they welcomed Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis to Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch in honor of the baseball holiday observed league-wide. It ended on a sour one, with the Nats squandering a handful of opportunities and falling, 6-5, to the Rockies. Washington finished a disappointing 3-7 on its homestand.

The Nationals offense stranded eight runners -- and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position -- and the bullpen allowed solo home runs in each of the final two innings of a game in which the Nationals led multiple times.

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WASHINGTON -- Jackie Robinson Day began on a high note for the Nationals, as they welcomed Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis to Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch in honor of the baseball holiday observed league-wide. It ended on a sour one, with the Nats squandering a handful of opportunities and falling, 6-5, to the Rockies. Washington finished a disappointing 3-7 on its homestand.

The Nationals offense stranded eight runners -- and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position -- and the bullpen allowed solo home runs in each of the final two innings of a game in which the Nationals led multiple times.

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"I don't feel like we've played as bad as our record is," catcher Matt Wieters said. "At the same time, I don't feel like we've played great, so our goal should be to get to where we're playing great, knowing that's what we're striving for. Granted, it would have been nicer to win a few more games than we did this homestand, but we can't change that now. It's about moving forward."

Michael A. Taylor, who doubled twice in the contest, scored on a passed ball by Chris Iannetta in the fifth. After Iannetta retrieved the ball behind the plate, he attempted to throw back to pitcher Antonio Senzatela covering home, but the throw sailed high. Trea Turner, racing all the way around from second, crossed the plate to put the Nats up, 3-1. But the lead wouldn't last for long.

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg cruised through five innings -- with the exception of a Charlie Blackmon solo homer in the fourth -- prior to falling into trouble in the sixth. Blackmon got to the Nats' right-hander again, this time squeezing a ground ball past Ryan Zimmerman at first to drive in a pair. Carlos Gonzalez then singled him in with an opposite-field grounder to beat the shift.

"We've just got to keep pushing," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're going to win games, I know that. We've just got to play. We've got to capitalize in big moments. We haven't done that. And we've got to be able to put teams away early when it counts, not wait til late. We had opportunities to put this team away early today and we couldn't do it."

Wieters homered for the second straight game for Washington before DJ LeMahieu went deep to right-center to give Colorado a one-run lead in the eighth. Taylor, dancing off third shortly after stealing the base, caused reliever Adam Ottavino to throw a wild pitch. Taylor scored to tie it once again, but lefty Sean Doolittle served up a solo blast to former National Ian Desmond in the ninth.

Video: COL@WSH: Wieters lifts a solo homer to right-center

HARPER REGAINS HR LEAD
Sluggers Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are having quite the early battle for Major League Baseball's home run lead. But it took just one pitch for Harper to regain the top spot. Both players entered Sunday with six homers each before Harper crushed a first-pitch fastball from Rockies starter Tyler Anderson into the center-field bleachers.

Video: COL@WSH: Harper crushes his seventh homer of 2018

The homer put the Nats up, 1-0, and was Harper's 40th career long ball in April, by far the most he's had in any month of his career. Statcast™ tracked the homer at 109.1 mph and an estimated 418 feet. The 25-year-old finished the game 1-for-2 with three walks. He leads all hitters with 20 base-on-balls and a 1.219 OPS.

HE SAID IT
"What I'm most frustrated by is that I was ahead in the count 0-2, I had three chances to put him away, and I threw him three pitches that weren't even close. I think I was trying to do a little too much. I got away from myself and wasn't focusing on just executing. I kind of got caught up in the energy there and left three that were way too high. They didn't even serve a purpose. And I let him back in the at-bat and he made me pay for it." -- Doolittle, on giving up homer to Desmond

UP NEXT
Jeremy Hellickson will get his first start with the Nationals as he takes on Jacob deGrom and the Mets at Citi Field. The right-hander went 8-11 with a 5.43 ERA in 30 starts last season split between the Orioles and Phillies. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Washington Nationals