I think I can safely say that this was one of the best games we've seen in 2012, if not the best pitched.
Jeff Francis, still operating on that pitch count, cruised through his 5 innings of work, allowing 5 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 5 batters, 2 of which were against Washington wunderkind Bryce Harper.
Francis, along with the rest of the Rockies' staff, had his curveball working quite well. The staff as a whole pitched one of their best games, notching like 18 first pitch strikes or something along those lines. Jeff said it on the radio while I was driving home. Whatever the total was, Rockies' pitching worked ahead of Washington bats most of the night.
The first run for the Nationals came in the 3rd inning. After a Jesus Flores single, a Stephen Strasburg sac bunt, Danny Espinosa's 2nd plunking of the night, Bryce Harper struck out on a 67mph sweeping curveball from Francis. Ryan Zimmerman then grounded the 2-1, 2-out pitch right to Todd Helton who dove and it'S OFF THE BAG AND INTO RF, driving in Flores.
The second run for Washington was on back-to-back doubles from Flores and Strasburg.
Point was that Francis got 6 groundouts to 1 flyout, and likely could have gone into the 6th, but manager Jim Tracy decided that 66 was close enough to 75 to call it a night for Francis. Not the worst decision ever, possibly overly cautious, but when you're in the middle of a 20-game stretch with no breaks in between, extra rest for the pitching might not be the worst idea.
Rockies bats kept pace with the Nats into the 6th inning. Down 2-1, Dexter Fowler tripled, and then watched as Marco Scutaro took a 97mph Strasburg fastball in the head. Scutaro walked off of the field under his own power, and looked to be alright. I haven't heard anything else yet, so I'm going to assume that no news is good news.
Nelson came in to replace Scoots, and the Rockies answered with 2 hits and a sac fly to take a 3-2 lead.
Later, in the 7th, Eric Young Jr came on as a PH, walked, stole 2B, and then scored on a Chris Nelson single.
Josh Roenicke, Matt Belisle, and Rafael Betancourt maintained the 2-run lead, and the Rockies took the series opener from the Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg.
Also, funny tweet tonight, after Harper's 2nd strikeout on a sweeping 67 mph curveball away:
@rockiesmagicnum "That's a clown pitch , Bro ! "— Guillermo Gonzalez (@TheRealGmo) June 26, 2012
Well, it made me laugh anyhow.
I do have to say that Strasburg was every bit as impressive as he's hyped up to be. The first 3 innings of baseball were just amazing. The guy was locating 97mph fastballs on the outside corners, down in the zone. He was putting his breaking balls exactly where he wanted them. He mowed down 8 Rockies batters to only 1 walk. The guy is just phenomenal. His will be a career worth following, that's for sure.
That all said, I simply love that the Rockies tagged him for 6 hits and 3 runs. Got to see all the Strasburg goodness I needed to and got to see the Rockies win one of the more exciting games they've played this season.