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Gray, Rockies unable to overcome rough 6th

Club manages just 2 hits off Scherzer, Nats
Special to MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Jon Gray realizes in order to make the leap to the elite tier of starting pitchers, he has to find a way to successfully navigate stressful situations. It didn't happen again Saturday for the Colorado starter, and it left him stewing.

"I can't stress how frustrating it is to go out there and cruise and then let it all go to waste," Gray said in the aftermath of the Rockies' 6-2 loss to the Nationals, in which he failed to make it out of the sixth inning.

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WASHINGTON -- Jon Gray realizes in order to make the leap to the elite tier of starting pitchers, he has to find a way to successfully navigate stressful situations. It didn't happen again Saturday for the Colorado starter, and it left him stewing.

"I can't stress how frustrating it is to go out there and cruise and then let it all go to waste," Gray said in the aftermath of the Rockies' 6-2 loss to the Nationals, in which he failed to make it out of the sixth inning.

View Full Game Coverage

For five innings Saturday at Nationals Park, Gray kept pace with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer pitch-for-pitch in a marquee mound matchup that manager Bud Black said pregame would "build character" for his young starter.

Video: COL@WSH: Gray strikes out Adams to end the 1st inning

"He matched him," Black said. "But these types of games are learning experiences for Jon and other pitchers who match up against these types of great pitchers. When you go up against a guy like Scherzer, man, you've got to be on your game. And Jon was on it for five innings, and then the ball climbed up a little bit."

Heading into the sixth, Gray had been sharp, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out six. But he allowed consecutive singles to Wilmer Difo and Bryce Harper to open the frame. Black came out to chat with his starter and chose to leave him in after the discussion. However, Gray then was victimized by an RBI single, a successful squeeze bunt and a two-run double, turning a 2-1 lead into a 5-2 deficit.

"I can be good 95 percent of the time but not good five percent of the time. It doesn't matter, I guess," Gray said. "I've got to find a way to be good right there."

Video: COL@WSH: Blackmon smashes two-run homer off Scherzer

The Rockies' margin for error was thin due to Scherzer's dominance. After walking Gerardo Parra and allowing a two-run home run to Charlie Blackmon in the first inning, Scherzer proceeded to set down 20 straight Colorado batters, striking out 11 Rockies hitters in his seven innings.

Once Scherzer left, the Rockies had one final chance to mount a rally in the eighth, as Ryan McMahon picked up a single and Tony Wolters walked. But Pat Valaika popped to short and DJ LeMahieu grounded out to end the threat and team's three-game winning streak.

Video: COL@WSH: Rockies nab Sierra at third as call stands

The Rockies struck out a season-high 14 times and managed a season-low two hits. Without Nolan Arenado in the lineup for the next four games as he serves his suspension, the offense needs to make adjustments to fill a major hole in the lineup.

"We're without one of our best players, but we're going to have to absorb it, just like all other teams do that are without some of their stars," Black said. "That's part of the game. We're going to have to pitch well, which we have in this series, and we're going to have to get some hits from the guys who are in the lineup, whoever they may be."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Rockies almost got out of the jam in the decisive sixth inning, but a call overturned by replay kept the inning alive. With runners on first and third and one out, the Nationals' Michael A. Taylor put down a squeeze bunt directly to first baseman Ian Desmond, who quickly flipped the ball underhand to Wolters in the hopes of nabbing a charging Harper at the plate. The umpires initially ruled Harper out, but after a review, changed the call to safe, giving Washington the go-ahead run.

"I felt I did [tag him]," Wolters said. "I wasn't sure. I know his feet came in first. That was a bang-bang play. I thought it would be close. Desmond made a really good play. We almost had him. It would have been a really cool play."

Video: COL@WSH: Harper scores after call is overturned

HE SAID IT
"Scherzer, he's one of the best, if not the best. Probably the best. It was a big swing by Charlie, but after that, it was tough to get much off him. He was good." -- LeMahieu, on Scherzer

UP NEXT
Tyler Anderson (0-0, 5.65 ERA) will take the hill for Colorado in the series finale against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals at 11:35 a.m. MT Sunday, which is Jackie Robinson Day across baseball. Every player will wear No. 42 in honor of the MLB pioneer. The last Rockies player to wear 42 before it was retired was reliever Armando Reynoso from 1993-96.

Elliott Smith is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon, Jon Gray