Two balks, a pair of scary moments and an injury that could have a big impact on the Colorado Rockies’ surprising season.
It added up to a costly loss for a team that has exceeded expectations so far.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler suffered injuries and two balks by Wilton Lopez opened the door for the Washington in the Nationals’ 5-4 win over Colorado on Thursday.
Gonzalez and Fowler were hurt early and Tulowitzki left with a rib injury in the eighth. While the Rockies said X-rays on Gonzalez and Fowler were negative and listed both players as day to day, Tulowitzki’s injury could be more serious.
Tulowitzki’s injury appears to be the most serious. He left Coors Field to have an MRI done on his ribs, which manager Walt Weiss said have been sore for "about a week." The MRI results later revealed a broken rib, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com confirmed Thursday night after the original report by the Denver Post. The All-Star reportedly could miss 4-to-6 weeks.
Tulowitzki was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth, straining an already short Rockies bench.
Gonzalez was hit near the ankle by a foul ball while on deck in the first inning and exited with a bruised left foot. Fowler was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Ross Detwiler after squaring to bunt in the third. A team trainer looked at Fowler, and the center fielder stayed in for another inning.
He couldn’t swing a bat so he was replaced by Jonathan Herrera in the bottom of the fifth.
”It was numb, I felt it swelling up. Obviously I couldn’t grip the bat so I couldn’t hit,” Fowler said.
On top of the injuries, reliever Wilton Lopez and pitching coach Jim Wright were ejected in the seventh, when the Nationals took control of the game and things got heated between the umpiring crew and the Rockies. Ian Desmond led off with a single and stole second. With two outs, Lopez was called for two balks, scoring Desmond to tie it at 3.
The first balk was called by home plate umpire James Hoye and second base ump Bob Davidson. Jim Reynolds at third base called the second one.
Crew chief John Hirschbeck said both balks were because Lopez used a stop-start motion with the hands.
”The first one I did see he started and stop,” Weiss said. ”You could say the first one was a balk, the second one I’m not sure if it’s part of his pre-pitch routine.”
Lopez shouted at Hirschbeck at first base as he left the field after the inning ended and was ejected. Wright was tossed by Reynolds when he was giving Reynolds ”the crazy gesture from the dugout,” Hirschbeck said.
Things unraveled in the eighth. Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double off reliever Matt Belisle (4-3) broke a tie, and he later scored on Desmond’s infield single to make it 5-3.
Tulowitzki hurt himself trying to make a play on Desmond’s hit.
”He got hurt on the dive,” Weiss said. ”When he came off it was very evident he was done.”
The Rockies were in control before the then. Tyler Colvin, who replaced Gonzalez, had an RBI single in the first and Michael Cuddyer drove in a run with a double in the fourth and later scored on a groundout to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead.
Craig Stammen (4-2) threw two scoreless innings. Rafael Soriano got his 17th save after giving up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Todd Helton with two outs.
Zimmerman had given the Nationals a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer in the third, his seventh of the season, the only blemish in an otherwise strong start for Jeff Francis.
”Jeff did a great job. I thought he used his fastball very well,” Weiss said. ”It’s the best I’ve seen his fastball as far as location. I thought everything worked off his fastball.”
Francis entered Thursday with a tenuous hold on his spot in the Rockies’ rotation. He had a shaky start against San Diego on Saturday in his first outing since coming off the 15-day DL because of a groin strain. He needed 93 pitches to get through four innings against the Padres, and with veteran Roy Oswalt pitching well in the minors, Francis’ role with the Rockies was in question.
Francis made his case with a solid outing against the Nationals. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out eight, his most since May 24, 2008.
”It’s a tough game tonight,” Francis said. ”It’s hard to be really happy when don’t win the game.”
NOTES: Weiss said he would decide Friday if the Rockies needed to call up one or more players due to the injuries. Outfielder Eric Young Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday and is not a possibility. … Cuddyer returned to the lineup after missing five games with a strained rib cage. … Colvin has seven RBIs in 14 at-bats in four games since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"It’s hard to be really happy when don’t win the game," Francis said.
NOTES: Desmond extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. … Strasburg (strained lat muscle) threw a successful bullpen session Thursday and is on track to start Sunday’s game at Cleveland. … Cuddyer returned to the lineup after missing five games with a strained rib cage. … To make room for Detwiler, the Nationals optioned RHP Erik Davis to Triple-A Syracuse.