WASHINGTON — Two poorly placed fastballs created plenty of problems for Lucas Giolito and the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
The rookie right-hander gave up consecutive home runs in the third inning to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and David Dahl on fastballs as the Rockies earned a series victory with a 5-3 triumph.
Giolito (0-1), one of baseball’s top prospects, gave up four runs in five innings after his recall from Triple-A Syracuse earlier in the day. It was his fourth start of the season for Washington, and first since July 24.
“He was getting it over better today than he had in the past,” said manager Dusty Baker, whose team has dropped six of eight. “They didn’t miss his fastball. That was the key. The two home runs were fastballs.”
Trea Turner, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper each hit solo home runs for the Nationals. But they could muster little else against Colorado starter Chad Bettis (11-7), who allowed two runs and five hits and struck out six over seven innings in his longest start since April 10. Adam Ottavino earned his second save.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning, and the Rockies took the lead for good in the third when Arenado lined an 0-2 pitch to left for a two-run homer. Arenado, who went 4 for 4, has 35 home runs this season.
“I missed the spot pretty bad with the fastball,” Giolito said. “It’s supposed to go up and in and I missed right over the plate. That happens with these hitters. I just have to be better about getting ahead of guys and finishing guys off with the pitch I want to throw and make sure I hit my spots.”
Dahl sent Giolito’s next pitch into the stands in left-center to make it 4-1.
Giolito said he was pitching better at Syracuse over the last month, but struggled with his command against Colorado. He departed after throwing 100 pitches.
“I was putting guys away a lot more efficiently than I did today,” Giolito said. “A lot of 0-2, 1-2 counts turned into 3-2, 2-2. I kind of let some at-bats get away from me when I was in the driver’s seat and I could have made something happen. When I’m 100 pitches-ish through five innings, then I’m not pitching the way I should be pitching.”
Colorado added a run in the eighth inning when Washington reliever Koda Glover’s wild pitch landed flush on the left shoulder of home plate umpire Mike Muchlinksi. As Nationals catcher Ramos checked on the crumpled umpire and searched for the ball, Daniel Descalso scored from second base for a 5-2 lead.
“I heard the impact and it was very hard and loud, so my initial reaction was to turn around and catch the umpire and see if he was all right,” Ramos said. “When I picked up my eyesight to look for the ball, I looked in the wrong direction and could not find it.”
Muchlinksi remained in the game.
Harper homered off Colorado reliever Boone Logan to lead off the ninth, but Ottavino retired all three hitters he faced to end the Nationals’ rally.
To make room for Giolito, the Nationals optioned INF Wilmer Difo to Double-A Harrisburg. Difo was hitting .257 with no homers and five RBI in 18 games with Washington.
Rockies: RHP Tyler Chatwood (10-8, 3.75), on the disabled list with a mid-back strain since Aug. 16, will have a rehab start Monday for Double-A Hartford at Richmond. Chatwood is expected to go five innings or about 75 pitches.
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross (right shoulder inflammation) allowed one run on three hits in one inning Sunday in his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Syracuse.
Rockies: Colorado returns home to begin a three-game series against the Dodgers. RHP Jon Gray (8-6, 4.61) gets the nod for the Rockies.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (13-7, 2.99 ERA) faces Phillies rookie Jake Thompson (1-3, 9.78) in the first of 22 straight games for Washington against NL East opponents.