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WSH@COL: Nicasio leaves the game after getting hit

DENVER -- The implications of a 5-3 loss to the Nationals on Friday night were of little concern to the Rockies.

All of that concern was instead focused on their teammate Juan Nicasio, who was removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital after being hit on the right side of the head by an Ian Desmond line drive in the second inning.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki spoke on behalf of his teammates after the game inside an interview room near the team's clubhouse.

"Our main focus in that locker room right now is Juan," Tulowitzki said. "We're obviously very worried. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, and it's scary. We come out here and play baseball every day, and sometimes some crazy things can happen. It puts it in perspective."

Tulowitzki said that players were told that Nicasio had suffered "some kind of neck injury," the severity of which was not immediately known. In the eighth inning, the Rockies announced that Nicasio was resting comfortably in a local hospital and undergoing "a battery of tests."

"We kept asking our trainers questions as the game went on, but that's all we really know; that's all we've been told," Tulowitzki said.

Nicasio gave up two runs in a 30-pitch first inning. With the Nationals leading, 2-0, Desmond hit the second pitch of the second inning right at Nicasio, who wasn't able to move out of the path of the screaming liner or get his glove up in time to lessen the impact.

Nicasio laid still on the mound for about five minutes -- surrounded by Rockies' trainers and emergency medical personnel -- before being strapped to the stretcher with his neck stabilized in a brace.

"You see line drives up the middle all the time, but that's the scariest one I've ever seen," Tulowitzki said. "Sometimes it grazes guys, but this seemed to hit him solid."

Desmond's enjoyment about tying a career high with four hits was tempered by his concern for the Rockies' right-hander.

"You hate to see another player get hurt," Desmond said. "We're all like brothers out there. It's just unfortunate. I said my prayer for him as soon as it happened. He's in God's hands now. Hopefully he's OK."

Tulowitzki and distraught Rockies manager Jim Tracy said that it was hard to continue playing after watching Nicasio get hit.

"It's hard to talk about a lot as far as this game is concerned," Tracy said, his voice barely above a whisper. "There was a lot of game effort from a number of people who continued to get after it after what happened."

With heavy hearts, the Rockies staged a comeback after trailing, 4-0, in the sixth. After one-out base hits from Todd Helton and Tulowitzki put runners on the corners, Seth Smith was hit in the thigh on a two-strike pitch from Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann. But third-base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled that Smith swung at the pitch, resulting in the second out of the inning.

That's when the Rockies went to work. Three straight base hits from Chris Nelson, Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart plated three runs, cutting the Nationals' lead to one run. Colorado had a chance for more, as Ty Wigginton walked and Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard threw three straight balls to Eric Young Jr. But the right-hander responded with three straight strikes -- the last one a changeup -- to punch out Young and end the frame.

The Rockies seemed to have momentum an inning later when Dexter Fowler led off with a single. But progress was halted when Helton hit a liner right at first baseman Michael Morse, who stepped on the bag to double up Fowler.

Nicasio labored through the first inning, giving up two runs on three hits. The Nationals led 2-0 in the second when Desmond's liner struck Nicasio.

Edgmer Escalona came on in relief and gave the Rockies a chance to come back late by limiting the Nationals to two runs on seven hits -- including Morse's solo home run in the fifth -- over 4 1/3 innings.

"We got it back to 4-3, and a lot of that, obviously, was due to the job that Edgmer Escalona did," Tracy said. "I know that that's the longest he's pitched in a professional game. He did an extremely good job."

A season that has included numerous injuries and disappointments has been especially tough on the Rockies' pitching staff. Jorge De La Rosa was lost for the season after Tommy John surgery, the Rockies were without Esmil Rogers for almost three months due to multiple injuries, and longtime ace Ubaldo Jimenez was sent to Cleveland the day before the Trade Deadline.

"Obviously it's been a tough year already," Tulowitzki said. "Obviously [the death of team president Keli McGregor] last year is something that's still close with us. So there's been quite a few things in the last couple years that have happened in this organization that have touched our hearts.

"But I think if we were to talk to Juan he'd want us to go out there and play the game the right way; to play hard and really finish strong. Now it gives us more incentive."

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