DENVER — Washington ace Max Scherzer never did find his groove Monday night.
Not a problem, though — the bullpen took care of this one.
Five relievers combined for five scoreless innings and Bryce Harper doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh as the Nationals beat the skidding Colorado Rockies 5-4.
Sammy Solis (2-3) got the win and Colorado-native Mark Melancon needed only four pitches in the ninth to earn his 34th save in 37 chances. The NL East leaders have won three straight and four of five.
“Our bullpen came in and bailed each other out,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s hard to shut these guys out for the last four or five innings of a ballgame.”
Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos homered for Washington.
Werth hit a two-run homer estimated at 444 feet in the third inning off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa and reached safely three times to extend his on-base streak to a career-best 43 games.
The stretch is the longest in the majors this season and it ties Werth with Ryan Zimmerman for the Nationals record.
“It’s a product of my approach,” Werth said. “My focus has always been to get on base. If you get on base, good things can happen.”
DJ LeMahieu had the fourth four-hit game of his career and Charlie Blackmon hit his sixth home run in four games for Colorado. Blackmon was selected the NL player of the week after leading the majors with seven home runs last week.
Still, the Rockies have lost eight of nine.
“We are dealing with multiple challenges at the same time right now, but the bottom line is you have to win games,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “We are fighting, but we are coming up short.”
Jordan Lyles (3-4) took the loss.
Scherzer allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings.
Colorado scored three in a 35-pitch first inning. David Dahl hit a two-run double with the bases loaded and Daniel Descalso added a sacrifice fly.
Blackmon made it 4-2 with his homer in the fourth.
The Nationals’ bullpen pen shut down the Rockies from there as Matt Belisle and Solis combined for 2 1/3 innings. Blake Treinen needed just one pitch to induce Nolan Arenado into an inning-ending double play in the seventh, and Shawn Kelley struck out two in a hitless eighth.
“I just didn’t pitch efficiently,” Scherzer said. “I just didn’t do a lot of things right tonight. I just couldn’t get in a groove.
“I’m just glad I got picked up by the bullpen and the offense.”
Daniel Murphy hit an RBI single in the fifth, Ramos connected for a tying home run in the sixth and Harper hit his second double of the night in the seventh to give Washington a 5-4 lead.
Harper played for the second straight day after missing five games with a neck injury. He went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a single, two walks and an RBI. On Sunday, his first day back, he went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. In the two days, he increased his average from .233 to .240.
The Nationals now lead the Miami Marlins, who are expected to be without slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the remainder of the season, by 8.5 games. The New York Mets are 11.5 games back, the Philadelphia Phillies are 15 back and the Atlanta Braves are a distant 26.5 games back.
Washington trails the Chicago Cubs by 3.5 games for the best record in baseball, and it leads the Texas Rangers by 1.5 games for the No. 2 spot.
Blackmon also led the majors with a .563 batting average and 42 total bases last week. In seven games, he topped the NL with nine RBIs and a .600 on-base percentage.
“Chuck is having a great year,” Weiss said. “He is one of those guys who just continues to get better and I think that is directly related to his work ethic.”
Nationals: Zimmerman (wrist) and C Jose Lobaton (elbow) began rehab assignments with Triple-A Syracuse. … INF Stephen Drew (vertigo-like symptoms) has increased his participation in baseball activities. … RHP Joe Ross (shoulder) will throw a bullpen at some point during the three-game series.
Rockies: RHP Tyler Chatwood (back spasms) could skip his next start or be placed on the 15-day disabled list, Weiss said. … 1B Mark Reynolds (hand) had surgery to remove a fractured hook of the hamate bone in his left hand.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 4.24 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two August starts. He has struck out 12 and walked two in 12 innings.
Rockies: RHP Chad Bettis (10-6, 5.27) hasn’t lost a start since July 2. In his last one, he gave up five runs over five innings in 100-plus-degree heat in Texas.
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