Situated five thousand two hundred feet above sea level, Coors Field in Denver, Colorado is known as a launching pad for hitters and good for a few runs on any unlucky pitcher's ERA, if they're daring enough to sign on with the Rockies or just passing through on a road trip. Washington Nationals starter Shawn Hill is a sinker-baller, and it should be readily apparent if his ball isn't dropping in the thin air up there.
Jeff Francis, the Rockies soft-tossing left-handed starter, has the 4.38 ERA of a Coors Field pitcher, but the (13-6) record of a Major League staff ace. Francis walks tonight's Nationals second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez with one out in the first, and Jimenez steals second with Ryan Zimmerman at bat. Zimmerman lines a single to center. Jimenez holds at third. Dmitri Young lines up the middle and the first-inning-Nationals are at it again. Jimenez scores. 1-0 Nationals.
Kaz Matsui singles on a pitch from Shawn Hill that's up in the zone. Matsui steals second with Troy Tulowitzki at bat. Tulowitzki singles to right. Matsui scores from second, 1-1 ballgame. Hill blows a high fastball by Matt Holliday. Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins fly out to end the first.
Francis ends the second straight inning with a National staring at a curve, in the first it was Wily Mo Pena, in the second it's Nook Logan who strands Ronnie Belliard at second. Shawn Hill gets Brad Hawpe staring at strike three to start the bottom of the second. Hill gets Yorvit Torrealba to ground out to third, Cory Sullivan flies out to left. 1-1 after two.
Ryan Zimmerman's up with one out in the thir-...THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Fastball on the outside of the plate, Zimmerman pushes it out to right and over the scoreboard into the stands. 2-1 Nationals in the third on Zimmerman's twentieth trip around.
Kaz Matsui smokes an inside sinker to right and is around second, headed for third, by the time line drive he hits off Hill reaches the wall in right. Austin Kearns throws it in way behind the runner. Word of Austin Kearns' arm precedes him, so when Tulowitzki flies out to right, Matsui stays at third rather than test the Nationals right fielder. Hill gets Holliday to fly out to right. 2-1 Nationals after three.
Ronnie Belliard reaches first on an infield single with one out in the fourth. Jeff Francis battles Jesus Flores to a full count and beyond before finally blowing him away with the high heat. Francis gets the opposing pitcher to ground out to end the top of the fourth. Todd Helton doubles into the corner in right off Hill to leadoff the Rockies fourth. Garrett Atkins flies to right to advance Helton to third. Hill gets Hawpe with curve on the outside edge. Sort of. Yorvit Torrealba grounds back to the hill. 2-1 Nationals after four.
Jeff Francis retires the side in order in the fifth. Hill does the same for a scoreless frame. Still 2-1 Nationals. Francis gets DY to ground out, and Austin Kearns to line out for the first two outs of the sixth. Wily Mo Pena singles to center, but Francis gets Belliard to fly out to right. Hill retires Tulowitzki, Holliday and Helton in order to end the sixth.
Jesus Flores singles down the right field line, and beats out a throw to second on a sac bunt from Hill, when Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's throw from in front of home pulls Tulowitzki off second. Hill safe at first. Nook Logan tries a sac bunt, but this time Torrealba cuts down the lead runner at third. D'Angelo Jimenez grounds to second, but Tulowitzki drops the throw to second from Matsui, so everyone's safe. Bases loaded for Ryan Zimmerman. Jeff Francis is done. RIght hander Taylor Buchholz is on in relief and...THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Ryan Zimmerman makes the Rockies pay for two errors by lining an 0-1 fastball to left for a two-run single. 4-1 Nationals after seven and a half. Stand up and stretch...
Atkins and Hawpe fly out to center and Yorvit Torrealba grounds out to third. Shawn Hill has the lead after seven. Top of the eigth. Wily MO MO MO MO MO!!! Wily Mo Pena swings and connects with a curve low and outside, that Pena pushes out to right center into the bullpen. Pena's third as a National. 5-1 Washington. Taylor Buchholz gets through the eigth.
Luis "Set-up" Ayala is on in the bottom of the eigth for the Nationals and he gets hit hard twice but pitches a scoreless frame. Brian Fuentes, Rockies closer, "Usurped closer," my Brother Scout suggests as he arrives on the scene at FederalBaseball, anyway, Fuentes comes on in the top of the ninth. The Professional Pinch Hitter Tony Batista starts the top of the ninth. "'Grip and Rip Batista," Scout, my Source for All Things Baseball suggests, as Fuentes gets a ground out to third from the wide-open Batista. Nook Logan takes an inside strike three. D'Angelo Jimenez lines out to second.
The Rockies have three outs to get four runs. Chad Cordero enters the game in a non-save situation. The first batter, Troy Tulowitzki lines a single to start things, and Matt Holliday makes it a save situation with a two-run shot to right center. Chad Cordero is wearing the away grays, navy blue Nationals cap with white cursive "W" stitched above a brim as flat as the sloping ice of St. Mary's Glacier. 5-3 Nationals. Todd Helton goes to a full count, and singles on a ground ball to deep short. Garrett Atkins takes a hanging slider into the left field corner to move Helton to third. Jamey Carroll on to run at second. NO OUTS!!! Brad Hawpe takes ball four from Cordero. Manny Acta, Nationals Manager pulls the plug...
The Tallest Pitcher in MLB History inherits loaded bases with no outs in the ninth and an increasingly fragile 5-3 lead. Yorvit Torrealba droops a single to right center, two runs score when Jamey Carroll speeds around behind Tulowtizki. 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Cory Sullivan succesfully sac bunts to move the winning run to third. Ryan Spilsborgh fouls off a 3-1 fastball, then grounds to Fick at first, Fick holds the runner at third, and tags Spilsborgh. Rauch vs Kaz...Matsui grounds up the middle and D'Angelo Jimenez can't pick it up, Brad Hawpe scores the game winner...Un-be-lievable...
*E.Chigliak Drinks From The Stanley Cup!!* (Last two pics).
Nationals now 58-71.