DENVER -- The Nationals had Rockies starter Esmil Rogers on the ropes early on Thursday, but the knockout punch never came.Making his first start since July 5, Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler turned in what manager Davey Johnson described as a serviceable outing, but Washington's bats went quiet after the first inning en route to a 6-3 loss in front of 35,956 at Coors Field. After winning four straight, the Nationals have now lost two in a row, and they've dropped 10 of their last 13 on the road. Ryan Zimmerman's two-run double in the ninth off closer Huston Street cut Colorado's lead to three runs, but it only left the Nationals to play the "what if" card after squandering several opportunities to break through at the plate earlier in the game. "We had the right guys up there," Johnson said. "We just didn't make it happen. We picked it up in the ninth inning, but it was a little too late." The Nationals looked poised to break out early when Rick Ankiel hit a leadoff single, Zimmerman walked and Michael Morse notched a base hit to score Ankiel. But with one down, Jayson Werth flied out to center and Laynce Nix fanned. Washington was unable to capitalize on similar opportunities throughout Rogers' outing. In the third, Zimmerman belted a one-out double -- the first of three hits -- off the wall in right field, but the Nationals failed to plate him. In the sixth, Ian Desmond drew a one-out walk and moved to third on pinch-hitter Alex Cora's single to right. But Rockies manager Jim Tracy replaced Rogers with lefty Matt Reynolds, who struck out Ankiel to end the threat. After laboring through the first inning, Rogers (5-1) didn't allow a run the rest of his outing. He struck out six and walked two, throwing 112 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. Johnson gave credit to Rogers but said the right-hander provided chances to break through that the Nationals hitters didn't seize. "He's got a good arm, but he made a lot of bad pitches," Johnson said. "We just didn't capitalize." Rogers said a tip from injured teammate Jorge De La Rosa led to a change in approach. "Today, De La Rosa told me before the game, 'Hey, use your changeup. This team is really aggressive,'" Rogers said. Detwiler (1-1) carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, when Troy Tulowitzki followed a walk to Todd Helton with a single. Ty Wigginton ended the southpaw's shutout bid one batter later with a base knock that scored Helton. Chris Nelson followed with the Rockies' third straight single, but Werth threw out Tulowitzki at the plate to keep the game tied at 1. The Rockies, though, got to Detwiler again an inning later. Chris Iannetta laced a leadoff double to left-center and -- after moving to third on Rogers' sacrifice bunt -- scored on Eric Young's base hit up the middle. In the sixth, Tulowitzki gave the Rockies insurance by greeting Detwiler's replacement, Collin Balester, with a leadoff home run to left-center, his 21st. It was the first appearance for Balester since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. Detwiler was able to command his sinker through the first three innings, but he said he had trouble keeping the pitch down in the fourth and fifth. "I started walking people and I left the ball up a little bit," said Detwiler, who walked three and struck out one over five innings (66 pitches). "I don't think there's anything mechanical. I threw a lot of fastballs today, and I think they got their timing down." Colorado poured it on in the eighth, with three runs off former Rockies farmhand Ryan Mattheus, who walked three (one intentional), hit a batter and gave up two hits in the inning. Johnson said it was "an oversight" to insert Mattheus in the eighth against his former team.
"I forgot we got him from the Rockies, and he was too pumped up," Johnson said.For his part, Mattheus said he didn't place any significance to pitching at Coors Field for the first time. The right-hander's downfall was simply an inability to find the plate. "I didn't put anything extra on it," Mattheus said. "I didn't throw to many strikes, and you can't do this at this level." With three hits, Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He is batting .446 (25-for-56) with five doubles and four RBIs during that stretch.
Nick Kosmider is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.