DENVER — Ross Ohlendorf returned to the big leagues with a new windup and delivered quite a performance.
Displaying a throwback motion with an exaggerated rock step and lifting both arms over his head, Ohlendorf pitched six strong innings in his Washington debut as the Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 5-1 Wednesday night.
Ian Desmond backed him with two hits and three RBIs for the Nationals’ third win in their last 12 road games.
“My windup, I started doing this year,” Ohlendorf said. “It gives me rhythm and helps me stay loose, and the ball has been coming out well pitching that way.”
Well enough to keep the Rockies’ hitters guessing.
“Sometimes you get ready too early,” Nolan Arenado said. “Then you get ready too late. You couldn’t find that balance. He kept the ball down. He mixed in both sides of the plate. You’ve got to give him credit. He did a good job.”
Recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Syracuse, Ohlendorf (1-0) allowed one run and two hits in his first start since last Aug. 17 with San Diego against San Francisco.
“It couldn’t have been easy,” said Desmond, who matched a season high with his three RBIs. “I know he’s got to be hungry to get back to the big leagues. To come up and deliver like that, that’s an outing we’ve been needing all year. To hold the Rockies at home, all their guys are hot, he did an unbelievable job.”
Signed by Washington last winter as a minor league free agent, Ohlendorf became the eighth starting pitcher used by the Nationals this year, matching last season’s total. Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler remain on the disabled list but are due to return soon.
However, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he was impressed by Ohlendorf and hopes to find a way to keep the Princeton product around for a while. And he kind of likes his windup.
“It’s old-fashioned,” Johnson said.
Desmond extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with an RBI single in the fourth to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Washington struck for three more in the sixth and chased starter Jorge De La Rosa (7-4), beating him for the first time in the past five tries.
De La Rosa, who has been dealing with a nagging cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand, went 5 1-3 innings and allowed three runs on four hits. He struck out five and walked three. De La Rosa had gone 3-0 with a 4.44 ERA in his previous four starts against the Nationals.
“He struggled through some of his outing and again in the end,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “He kept us close enough to win a game. He had to work pretty hard, threw a lot of pitches.”
Jeff Kobernus began Washington’s burst with a one-out walk in the sixth and Ryan Zimmerman doubled to the wall in deep left-center, scoring Kobernus.
Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and center fielder Dexter Fowler both converged on Zimmerman’s drive, banging into each other as Fowler jumped at the wall. The ball dribbled to the ground and Fowler threw it back in. Both players, though shaken up, remained in the game.
Adam Ottavino relieved De La Rosa and Wilin Rosario replaced catcher Yorvit Torrealba in a double switch. One out later, Adam LaRoche was walked intentionally and went to second on a wild pitch before Desmond singled up the middle, scoring Zimmerman and LaRoche.
Gonzalez tripled in a run for Colorado in the sixth but Washington got it back in the eighth on an RBI double by Anthony Rendon, who has a hit in seven straight games.
NOTES: The Nationals made room for Ohlendorf by optioning RHP Nathan Karns to Double-A Harrisburg. … The Rockies announced before the game that they had signed their top draft pick, Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray. The third overall selection in last week’s draft, Gray is the highest pick to sign so far. … OF Eric Young Jr. was designated for assignment by the Rockies, and RHP Chris Volstad was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs. … OF Michael Cuddyer missed a fifth straight game for the Rockies because of a right ribcage strain but is expected to return for Thursday’s series finale.
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