WASHINGTON (AP) - After being completely shut down for the first seven innings, the Colorado Rockies finally got the offensive opportunity they were looking for in the eighth - and failed to convert.
Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann took a shutout into the seventh inning and came out on top in a pitchers' duel with Jhoulys Chacin, who gave up a lone run on Roger Bernadina's broken-bat single in a 2-0 loss Sunday.
After Zimmermann left, the Rockies were in position to complete the series sweep in the eighth inning against All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard. Ian Stewart led off with a single and became the first Colorado hitter to advance to second base on Matt Pagnozzi's sacrifice. Then pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton walked, setting the stage for pinch-hitter Jason Giambi.
But Clippard struck out Giambi looking at a changeup, and Mark Ellis popped out to center to end Colorado's only scoring threat.
``I don't think we could have asked for a better situation than we got,' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ``We just couldn't get a big hit.'
Rick Ankiel homered off reliever Matt Reynolds in the eighth for the Nationals, who head into the All-Star break with a .500 record (46-46) for the first time since 2005.
Zimmermann (6-7) went 6 1-3 innings, allowing four singles. He also struck out six and didn't walk anyone, continuing his impressive return from reconstructive elbow surgery.
``My slider was probably the best it's ever been,' Zimmermann said. ``I felt like I could throw it whenever and where I wanted to.'
Zimmermann was nearly matched by Chacin (8-7), who gave up one run and four hits in seven innings.
``You just hate to waste a pitching performance like we had today,' Ellis said.
Neither team got a runner as far as second base - let alone home - until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Zimmermann allowed singles to Todd Helton in the first and seventh, Ian Stewart in the fifth, and Chacin in the sixth.
Chacin was even better for stretches. He retired Washington's first 11 batters, until Ryan Zimmerman bounced a single through the left side of the infield with two outs in the fourth inning.
The Nationals didn't have a second baserunner until the sixth, when Ian Desmond led off with an infield single. Zimmermann sacrificed him to second with a bunt, and Bernadina flared a hit to right to make it 1-0.
``He just hit it in the right spot,' Chacin said. ``When something's going to happen, it doesn't matter if you break the bat - he just hit it good enough to get the base hit and score a run.'
Chacin has now lost three starts in a row, although he felt much better about Sunday's performance than the previous two.
``It's frustrating, but you can't control what you can't control. When you don't score runs you can't win,' Chacin said. ``I'm happy with what I did and how I finished the first half.'
Helton led off the seventh with a blooper that ticked off the glove of sliding left fielder Laynce Nix, and after Troy Tulowitzki popped out, Zimmermann was done. On came Ryan Mattheus, who got two quick outs to end the inning.
This was the third time in Zimmermann's last six starts that he didn't allow a run. He also has pitched at least six innings in 13 consecutive outings.
It probably did not hurt this time around that Tracy held three starting position players out of the lineup so they'd get an extended rest because of the midseason break that begins Monday: Carlos Gonzalez, who recently missed four games with a bruised right wrist; Wigginton and Chris Iannetta.
``We're obviously very hopeful that we'll be ready to completely rock 'n' roll by next Thursday,' Tracy said, referring to Colorado's next game.
While the Nationals are 46-46, the Rockies fell to 43-48; they were above .500 at this point of each of the last two seasons.
NOTES: Colorado OF Charlie Blackmon, who went on the disabled list Friday, will have surgery Monday to implant a pin in his broken left foot. ... Rockies 3B Stewart made a nice catch on Wilson Ramos' foul pop leading off the third, leaning over - and nearly tumbling over - the railing in front of the visitors' dugout. ... Nationals RHP Clippard said Rockies SS Tulowitzki offered to give him a lift on a plane to Arizona for the Midsummer Classic. ... Gonzalez came in to play center field as part of a double switch in the eighth inning.
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