“That was big,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “Jackson was sharp; very sharp. Kept the ball down, had a good slider working today and he threw some changeups. It was a really good game for him.”
With the loss, the Rockies — 10-6 winners in Sunday’s first game — are half a game behind the Diamondbacks for the top National League Wild Card spot and 5 1/2 games up on the Brewers. They also announced during the game they had acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a deal with the Rangers to propel a postseason run.
“We won two out of three from a good club, and I think they know we’re a good club, too,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
For the second consecutive night, a Rockies pitcher carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. After German Marquez accomplished the feat Saturday, Jon Gray did the same Sunday, but struggled with command as the fifth inning began.
The Nationals erupted for three runs in the frame, as Anthony Rendon singled before Adam Lind and Brian Goodwin homered, giving the Nationals the lead.
“A lot of fastballs. He threw them really well,” Lind said of Gray. “He just left one over the plate. Having somebody get on base was good, coming up from the stretch really benefited me.”
Gray, meanwhile, gave up his runs — and hits — in the fifth, and exited after seven frames. Sunday marked the second consecutive start during which the Rockies lost after Gray put up zeros in every inning he pitched but one. Gray said his secondary pitches deserted him Sunday.
“But I feel like everything was going well [in the other innings],” Gray said. “I feel like we commanded the fastballs, and the slider was key, too. Everything was fine except for that inning, getting behind.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Escaping a pickle: After Gerardo Parra singled to score Gray in the fifth inning, he got caught in a jam between first and second base. When Wilmer Difo threw to Daniel Murphy to tag out Parra near first, Murphy instead threw to catcher Matt Wieters as Charlie Blackmon sprinted home. Wieters tagged Blackmon to end the inning and hold Colorado to one run in the frame.
“I was telling Michael Taylor, whenever a pitcher runs, when he scored that run, that it seemed to take something out of him for an instant,” Baker said of Gray. “I was glad I was right one time.”
Finishing strong: Despite throwing 101 pitches through six innings, Jackson came back out for the seventh and retired the side before making his exit. The Nationals relied on their bullpen heavily during the past two games and Jackson afforded it a break before Washington begins a three-game series vs. the Marlins on Monday.
“I knew today, after a tough first game, where the bullpen came in and picked up a lot of slack, it was imperative that I go out and eat innings and come out aggressive from the start,” Jackson said, “and pick the bullpen up because we definitely needed it. It’s one of those days where, as a starter, you want to go deep in the game anyways, but it was just do-or-die sort of. You go out and eat up innings and save the bullpen.”
Rockies: Right-hander Jeff Hoffman (6-3, 5.58) will start against the Mets on Tuesday at Coors Field at 6:40 p.m. MT as the Rockies open a six-game homestand. The last time he faced the Mets, Hoffman went six innings and gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk while earning the decision in a 13-4 victory at Citi Field on July 16.
Nationals: The Nationals begin a three-game series against the Marlins at Marlins Park on Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Washington has a double-digit game lead over the second-place Marlins in the NL East. Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two outings against his hometown team this season. Four of the six runs the left-hander allowed in his past two starts came in the first inning.
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Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington who covered the Nationals on Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.