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Rockies stumble in 4-1 loss to Nationals

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DAVID GINSBURG | July 7, 2012 08:44 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — Jeff Francis did a decent job on the mound. Dexter Fowler got three hits. Other than that, the Colorado Rockies didn't do much else right.

The Rockies tied a season high with four errors, including two in the pivotal three-run sixth inning that lifted the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 victory Saturday.

Francis (2-2) allowed three runs in five-plus innings, but his teammates were unable to provide much support with their bats or their gloves. Colorado managed only six hits and lost for the sixth time in eight games.

"Today wasn't so much about pitching as it was our lack of offense and the fact that we threw the ball around a little bit in the sixth inning," manager Jim Tracy said. "When you get six hits in a game and one guy gets three of them, there's not a tremendous amount of offensive opportunity."

The Rockies aren't the first team to be handcuffed by Gio Gonzalez (12-3). The left-hander gave up one run and three hits over six innings to win his fourth straight start and match R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets for winningest pitcher in the big leagues.

"He's a really, really good competitor and he's been an incredible find for their ballclub, just to be able to slide behind Stephen Strasburg," Tracy said.

Only once this season have the Nationals lost successive games started by Strasburg and Gonzalez, on April 28-29 against the Dodgers. Through five innings, however, this was anyone's game.

When Gonzalez walked off the mound for the final time, the score was tied at 1. The Nationals then made him a winner with an uprising fueled by Colorado miscues.

Danny Espinosa led off the sixth with a double off Francis. After a bloop single by Bryce Harper put runners on the corners, Ryan Zimmerman hit an RBI single off Josh Roenicke.

On a wild pitch, Zimmerman took off for second. Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario's throw was off target, and the rookie's error enabled Harper to score from third.

"That's an ill-advised throw," Tracy said. "That's a young kid trying to do too much in a situation."

Zimmerman eventually came home on an errant pickoff throw by Roenicke.

Francis gave credit to Gonzalez for getting the best of him in the pitchers' duel.

"I had good command of what I was doing out there, and obviously he did, too," Francis said. "Tough game to lose. It's well-pitched, and you make a few mistakes in one inning and they take advantage of them. That's the story of the game."

Gonzalez was the difference, but the pitcher said: "It's an honor to know the team won today. That's all that matters to me. It was a team win."

After Gonzalez left, three Washington relievers allowed three hits over three innings. Tyler Clippard worked the ninth for his 14th save.

Colorado has totaled 14 runs in its last seven games.

The gametime temperature was 101 degrees, but it took a while for Washington's offense to heat up. Ian Desmond made it 1-0 in the second inning with his 16th home run, a drive that barely cleared the right-field scoreboard. The shortstop has five homers and 13 RBIs over his last 12 games.

During the game, however, the team announced Desmond would miss Tuesday's All-Star game with a left oblique strain. He has been dealing with the injury since mid-June and will use the break to rest.

Colorado tied it in the fourth. Michael Cuddyer hit a leadoff double, moved to third on a groundout and scored with a headfirst slide on rookie Jordan Pacheco's sacrifice fly to right.

Both teams got a runner into scoring position in the fifth. Colorado wasted a two-out double by Fowler, and the Nationals came up empty after opening the bottom half with successive singles by Desmond and Tyler Moore.

NOTES: Zimmerman has 18 RBIs over his last 13 games. ... Fowler is on a 7-for-12 run over his last three games. ... Jordan Zimmermann (5-6) takes the mound for the Nationals in the series finale against the Rockies and right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who's 3-8 with a 6.28 ERA but 2-1 with a 2.34 ERA lifetime against Washington. ... Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.