Nationals hope to get on track vs. Rockies

WASHINGTON — The back-to-back brilliance of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg early in the week has given way to more losing by the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals, held to four hits by three Colorado pitchers, lost to the Rockies 5-1 on Thursday night, their seventh loss in nine games. Washington (6-7) is averaging 2.5 runs over their last eight contests.

“There’s a couple guys struggling, but for the most part we’re seeing some pretty good at-bats. We’re taking our walks,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I always say hitting comes and goes. That’s part of it. We’ve got to continue to do the little things, play defense, run the bases hard, pitch.”

Howie Kendrick is certainly not part of the problem. His homer accounted for Washington’s only run as he extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

“It’s still early in the season,” Kendrick said. “I don’t think we should, like panic at all. We’ve still got a lot of games left to play.”

DJ LeMahieu homered twice and had two doubles, driving in a career-high four runs to back Chad Bettis (2-0), who allowed a run on three hits in seven innings.

“Overall, I’ve felt good pretty much all season, but the last couple days I’ve been seeing the ball pretty good,” said LeMahieu, who has seven hits in his last two games, raising his average to .351.

Former Washington shortstop Ian Desmond went 1-for-4 in his first game back at Nationals Park.

Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon (right quad soreness) missed his third straight game.

“He’s improving,” Black said. “Hopefully in the next couple days we’ll get him out there.”

Left-hander Kyle Freeland (0-2, 5.56 ERA) pitches Friday as Colorado (7-7) goes for its third straight win. He has allowed two home runs in each of his two starts, including a 4-0 loss to the Braves on April 8.

In his career one start against Washington, he earned a win after allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits in five innings. In 13 career road starts, Freeland is 5-4 with a 4.82 ERA.

Colorado’s all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado is likely to be suspended by Major League Baseball for his role in the brawl Wednesday afternoon between the Padres and Rockies at Coors Field. Arenado charged the mound after Padres starter Luis Perdomo threw behind him.

“I’m sure it’s coming, but I really don’t know what (MLB’s) plans are going to be,” Arenado told the Denver Post prior to Thursday’s game.

The benches and bullpens emptied, and outfielder Gerardo Parra and starting pitcher German Marquez were also ejected and likely face a suspension.

Washington’s Friday starter Tanner Roark (1-0, 4.50 ERA), is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three games — two starts — versus the Rockies.

In his last start, Roark gave up five runs on five hits in five innings of a no-decision against the Mets.

Nationals catcher Matt Wieters (strained oblique) returned from the disabled list and wnet 0-for-2 with a walk. Pedro Severino was 8-for-23 (.348) in eight games during Wieter’s absence and remains with the club.

“With the injury that Matt had, I want to be careful with him,” Martinez told the Washington Post. “So, we’ll find places to give days off and let Sevy — Sevy’s done great so I want to keep him going as well. So he’ll get an opportunity to play.”