The Washington Nationals’ bullpen is getting the job done lately.
The Nationals look for another strong showing when they continue a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Friday at RFK Stadium.
Washington (40-55) has won six of its last nine games, despite the starting rotation posting a 6.14 ERA during that stretch and allowing opponents to hit .310. The Nationals’ bullpen has come through in those contests, recording a 2.20 ERA and holding opponents to a .188 batting average.
The Rockies’ last hit on Thursday came with two outs in the sixth inning before four Washington pitchers combined to retire 13 consecutive batters, with the bullpen tallying 12 of those and leading the team to a 5-4, 10-inning victory.
Billy Traber (2-0, 4.50 ERA), a member of that bullpen, will make his first start of 2007 for Washington on Friday. The left-hander has made 23 relief appearances this season and is filling in for Jason Simontacchi, who was scratched due to right elbow tendinitis.
Traber struggled in eight starts for the Nationals last season, going 3-3 with a 7.75 ERA and a .320 opponents batting average. He lost his only career start versus the Rockies (48-47), giving up two runs and five hits over four innings in a 2-1 defeat on June 4, 2003, while with Cleveland.
The Nationals snapped an eight-game losing streak to Colorado Thursday. Austin Kearns led off the bottom of the 10th with a single to right and eventually scored on D’Angelo Jimenez’s game-winning RBI single.
It was Jimenez’s first hit in 20 at-bats as a pinch hitter this season and helped the Nationals improve to 5-1 in their last six home games.
“The odds were in his favor,” said Nationals manager Manny Acta, whose team has won its last five one-run games. “When you get sent out there 15, 20 times in a row and you don’t get a hit, yes, (teammates are) aware of that. … Everyone in there was pulling for him. They wanted him to get a hit so bad, whether it was to win the ballgame or just to snap out of it.”
Washington won despite playing most of the game without All-Star first baseman Dmitri Young, who was ejected in the third inning for arguing with the home plate umpire and had his 10-game hitting streak end.
The Rockies have lost six of Aaron Cook’s last seven starts, but look for a better result when he takes the mound on Friday. The right-hander went 4-0 in five starts from May 5-26, but has since gone 1-5 with a 5.22 ERA over his last nine.
He held Milwaukee to two runs and four hits over six innings on Sunday, but didn’t receive a decision in Colorado’s 4-3 loss. Cook (5-6, 4.60 ERA) walked two and struck out four.
The 28-year-old is 0-0 with a 3.71 ERA in five career games, including two starts, versus the Nationals - holding them to a .197 batting average.
Colorado will remain without closer Brian Fuentes, who wasn’t activated off the 15-day disabled list Thursday—the first day he was eligible to return. The left-hander has been sidelined with a strained left side since July 4.
“He will not be activated today. He’s not ready to pitch at this level,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “It doesn’t look like it will happen this weekend. We’re not sure it’s a delay. We had a target date - and we didn’t meet that.”