WASHINGTON (AP) — The Colorado Rockies put an uplifting finish on the first half of a baseball season that provided few feel-good moments.
Jordan Pacheco doubled and scored the tiebreaking run on a ninth-inning wild pitch by Tyler Clippard, giving the Rockies a 4-3 comeback victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Last-place Colorado took two of three from the Nationals, who own the best record in the NL. The Rockies (33-52) also won the season series, 4-3.
“I’m real proud of the way the club played in this series,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We beat a very good ballclub today. To win the series, to win the season series against them, you look for little incremental things in relation to where we’re at and where we’re trying to get to, and you feel awfully good about the way we gutted out that thing today.”
The NL East-leading Nationals took a 3-1 lead into the eighth, but a meltdown by their usually reliable bullpen cost them a chance to hit the All-Star break with their best record since the team moved to Washington in 2005.
Colorado’s rally was fueled by Eric Young’s first homer since September 2009 and a pair of wild pitches.
“We got a couple breaks with a couple balls that went to the backstop,” Tracy said, “but we did some good things offensively to put ourselves in position to get there.”
The Rockies pulled even in the eighth against reliever Sean Burnett, who came in with a 1.42 ERA. Young led off with a pinch-hit homer and Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Michael Gonzalez came in and threw his first wild pitch of the year, allowing the tying run to score.
Colorado scored the go-ahead run against Clippard (2-3), who walked to the mound with a 1.78 ERA. Pacheco led off with a double to left, took third on a sacrifice and raced home on Clippard’s first wild pitch of the season.
Rex Brothers (4-2) worked the eighth and Rafael Betancourt got his 15th save, striking out pinch-hitter Jesus Flores with two outs and runners at second and third.
“A great team win,” Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie said. “Nice to finish on a high note like this, coming back against a tough bullpen there, a bullpen that’s been lights-out for them all season.”
Fowler had two singles for his fourth straight multihit game.
Ian Desmond homered and Adam LaRoche had two hits and scored a run for the Nationals.
Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann gave up one run and three hits over seven innings. He left with a two-run lead, but the bullpen promptly gave it away.
“Any time it doesn’t go your way it’s frustrating, but we can’t really hang our heads,” Clippard said. “We’ve been playing well as a team. We have the All-Star game to regroup for a great second half. … I think we’re all satisfied with where we are right now.”
Colorado’s comeback enabled Guthrie to avoid his ninth loss. Guthrie allowed two runs, six hits and a walk in six innings.
“Obviously it’s a positive to be able to go out there and give the team a chance to win,” he said.
Desmond removed himself from the All-Star game Saturday with a strained left oblique, but the injury wasn’t evident 24 hours later. His 17th home run, a two-run drive in the fourth inning, gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Over his last 13 games, Desmond is 21 for 51 (.412) with 14 extra-base hits, including six homers, and 15 RBIs.
Early on, both teams squandered chances to take control.
The Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but scored only one run, on a sacrifice fly by former Nationals catcher Wil Nieves.
Fowler drew a leadoff walk in the third and advanced to third with one out before Zimmermann struck out Carlos Gonzalez and retired Tyler Colvin on a foul fly.
Washington got a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings before breaking through in the fourth. LaRoche led off with a double and Desmond followed with a drive over the center-field wall on a 3-2 pitch.
Washington went up 3-1 in the seventh when pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina beat out a bunt and scored on a single by Steve Lombardozzi.
NOTES: Depending on how Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are used in Tuesday’s All-Star game, manager Davey Johnson said his rotation for after the break would be Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Strasburg and Edwin Jackson. Johnson hopes to limit Strasburg’s innings in the second half, which could be why he’s being pushed back. … Guthrie is winless since May 31. … Washington stole six bases. … Zimmerman has worked at least six innings in all 17 starts this season.