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Nationals drop finale to Rockies, 12-10... but don’t quit

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Dusty Baker knew the Washington Nationals were headed for a tough stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and he was happy to see they didn’t give up even in yesterday’s loss.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Washington’s Nationals fought back from an early deficit to take the series opener with the Colorado Rockies 5-4 on Monday night in Coors Field.

Max Scherzer struggled, giving up seven hits, two walks and four earned runs in just four innings pitched, and he left the game with the Nats in a 4-2 hole, but they were able to battle back with runs in three consecutive innings from the fifth through the seventh to take the lead, with Bryce Harper doubling in the eventual winning run in the top of the seventh inning.

After the game, Harper, who went 3 for 3 with two walks to reach base in all five of his plate appearances, talked to reporters about the Nationals never giving up.

“I think in games we’re never down,” Harper explained. “We try to fight as best we can, and when we are down, we’re not down, when we’re ahead, we’re not ahead.

“We’ve just got to keep battling and keep putting the bat on the ball and good things happen when that happens.”

The Nationals fell behind 3-2 in the in the fifth on Tuesday night, and a three-run seventh for the Rockies put the second of three in Denver out of reach.

In the series finale on Wednesday afternoon, Stephen Strasburg had nothing, giving up nine runs on nine hits and three walks in 1 ⅔ innings pitched as the Nationals fell behind 9-2 early in the third game of three with the Rockies.

The Nationals battled back again, however, scoring two in the fourth and pulling within three with a two-run fifth that saw Harper homer to right on a 2-2 fastball from right-handed reliever Christian Bergman, who made the mistake of walking Daniel Murphy in front of the 23-year-old slugger, whose 21st HR made it a 9-6 game.

[ed. note: “Harper’s HR reportedly traveled 461 feet to right-center in Coors Field, the longest home run by Harper this season.”]

Washington’s bullpen gave three right back in the bottom of the fifth, however, 12-6, and Colorado eventually (3 hours, 52 minutes after it started) took the series finale... but not until after Trea Turner doubled and scored on a wild pitch, 12-7, Pedro Severino homered for the first time in the majors, 12-8, Turner tripled and scored in the eighth, 12-9, and Chris Heisey homered in the ninth, 12-10.

“I’m glad how our team battled back,” Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters after the loss.

“We were one key hit away from tying that game up.

“I looked over at their dugout and they didn’t feel comfortable at all, which you never feel comfortable here. And so, but we knew coming in here.

“Today was the typical Coors Field day, 12-10, the other couple days, 5-4, and 6-2, those aren’t usually Coors Field kind of games, but I’m just glad that we scored some runs and I’m proud of the way guys fought today.”

Now the Nationals move on to Atlanta, for a four-game series with the Braves, which starts at 7:10 PM this evening.

Tonight’s matchup is the seventh of the Nationals’ stretch of 20 games in 20 days, which Baker talked about last week as being as difficult a run as they’d have to get through when he was asked how he felt about the scheduling.

“Well, it doesn’t matter how I feel, it’s on the schedule,” Baker said. “So I’ve got to figure out a way, how to keep these guys strong, how to keep them competitive.”

Baker told reporters he was going to rest guys at the end of the last homestand like he did, giving both Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy a day off in the series finale with the Braves last Sunday since he said, “... nobody is going to get an off day in Colorado.”

“So, you prepare them before you go and then we go from there to Atlanta. We’re not overlooking Atlanta by any means, but I’m trying to win now and in the future.

“You hope the guys get their rest. You tell them to try to drink a lot of water, but when you look at the schedule this is, perhaps, the second-toughest part of our schedule like when we went to Kansas City, St. Louis and all them earlier without days off. We fared pretty well there.

“So this is a hot time in the schedule and 20 in a row and your gas tank’s not full at this point and it’s not supposed to be. But I’m hoping that we have more gas than anybody that we’re playing against and hoping that the rest that we gave some of the guys earlier in the course of the year comes to our benefit now.”

• We talked about the Nationals’ loss, Strasburg’s rough stretch and more on Nats Nightly after the game: