DENVER -- The move came in January, an obscure off-season transaction of seemingly minimal consequence. Seeking pitching depth, the Washington signed veteran Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league contract. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo knew him well, having been Arizona's scouting director when the Diamondbacks drafted Ohlendorf in 2004.
That little-noticed move paid a huge dividend Wednesday for the Nationals in their 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Ohlendorf, 30, had spent the entire 2013 season before Wednesday at Triple-A Syracuse. But with a need for a starter when a rainout Friday forced a doubleheader Sunday, the Nationals turned to Ohlendorf. He pitched six superb innings, allowing the Rockies two hits and their lone run.
Ohlendorf, who has pitched 108 games, including 70 starts, in the big leagues for the Yankees, Pirates and Padres, went 4-5 with a 4.27 ERA at Syracuse in 13 games, 12 starts. But in his three most recent starts there, he was 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
The Nationals built their lead to 4-0 with a three-run sixth and drove Jorge De La Rosa from the game. That rally began when Jeff Kobemus walked with one out and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's double to left-center. Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and center fielder Dexter Fowler collided going for the ball, with Fowler jumping over Gonzalez and getting his glove on the ball but not being able to hold it as he planted a foot in the wall.
That hit finished De La Rosa after 5 1/3 innings and 96 pitches. Adam Ottavino came on and issued a two-out intentional walk to Adam LaRoche and threw a wild pitch on a ball near the head of Ian Desmond, who then smacked a two-run single up the middle to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead.
Held to a bunt single through five innings, the Rockies broke through and scored against Ohlendorf with two out in the sixth. After Jonathan Herrera, who had bunted for a hit in the first, grounded into a fielder's choice, Gonzalez drove a triple to the gap in left-center to make it 4-1.
The Rockies added reliever Chris Volstad to their roster before the game, giving their bullpen eight relievers. He took the mound in the eighth and gave up a leadoff double to Adam LaRoche and a one-out double to Anthony Rendon.
After Ian Krol in the seventh and Tyler Clippard in the eighth retired the side in order, Herrera led off the ninth with a single against closer Rafael Soriano, pitching in a non-save situation. He struck out Gonzalez, got Troy Tulowitzki to fly out and struck out Todd Helton to end the game.
Ohlendorf, who uses an old-style, over-the-head windup, gave up a one-out bunt single to Jonathan Herrera in the first inning, and he took second when Ohlendorf shoveled the ball past first base while sprawled on the ground. But Ohlendorf retired Gonzalez and Tulowitzki on fly outs, the ball Tulowitzki hit sending center field Denard Span deep.
After Herrera's bunt single, Ohlendorf set down 12 straight batters before Nolan Arenado walked with one out in the fifth but Tyler Colvin lined to center and Yorvit Torrealba grounded into a fielder's choice.
The Nationals put a runner on base in each of the first four innings, but finally broke through and made it 1-0 in the fourth on a two-out single by Ian Desmond, who extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games. The hit scored Ryan Zimmerman, who opened the inning with a walk and moved to second on a ground out.
NOTES: Rockies OF Eric Young Jr. was designated for assignment, and RHP Chris Volstad was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs and added to the bullpen. The Rockies have 10 days to trade, release or try to put Young through waivers. ... Rockies RF Michael Cuddyer did not start for the fifth straight game, but manager Walt Weiss said he planned to have him in the lineup Thursday afternoon. Cuddyer, who had been bothered by a sore left rib cage, said he was fine, and Weiss said Cuddyer was "feeling much better" but decided to give him one more day and play him in a day game following Wednesday night's game. ... RHP Jonathan Gray, the third overall pick in last week's amateur draft from the University of Oklahoma, signed a contract and will begin his professional career at Grand Junction of the Rookie League. Major Legue Baseball's assigned value for the pick is $5,626,400, and the Rockies are believed to have finalized a deal for about $800,000 less than that figure. ... RHP Tyler Chatwood will start Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies. It will be his first outing since June 3, when he left a start after four innings with right triceps soreness. ... Nationals C Wilson Ramos re-injured his left hamstring running first-to-third drills two days ago at the club's facility in Viera, Fla. Manager Davey Johnson termed it a slight setback but said it would be "a longshot" for Ramos to return before the All-Star break. This is the second rehab stint this season for Ramos with his hamstring. He strained the hamstring April 13 and missed 14 games and reinjured it May 15. ... Ohlendorf was brought up from Triple-A Syracuse to start, and RHP Nathan Karns was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. To make room on the 40-man roster for Ohlendorf, RHP Christian Garcia (right forearm) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Karns went 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in three starts for the Nationals. Ohlendorf became the eighth pitcher to start for the Nationals this season, equaling the number of starters they used in 2012.