The Washington Nationals’ longtime success against the Houston Astros carried on with a 6-5 Tuesday night to kick off a six-game home stand.
Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon batted in five of the runs, with two doubles apiece, as Tanner Roark earned his sixth win of the season.
Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, in turned, allowed four earned runs on six hits and four walks over five innings pitched.
Needless to say, the Nats took an early lead.
Denard Span singled to lead things off for the District, before Rendon doubled him in on a line drive to center. Jayson Werth grounded back to the mound for the first out of the half-inning, but Adam LaRoche drew a walk in the next at-bat. After that, Zimmerman hit his first double of the night to bring home Rendon and make it 2-0 Nationals.
Keuchel went on to retire the side in the second, but his recovery stopped there.
In the third, Werth drew a one-out walk before LaRoche struck out swinging. Before Keuchel could close the book on the inning, however, he allowed a second RBI double to Zimmerman, which made it 3-0 Washington. To add some insurance, Ian Desmond singled, allowing Zimmerman to come home as Houston left-fielder Robbie Grossman dug out the ball.
In the fourth, the Astros seemed to learn that the key to making progress against Roark could be found in a small-ball strategy.
Jose Altuve, George Springer and Jon Singleton hit back-to-back-to-back singles, prompting a visit to the mound by Steve McCatty. For a brief moment, the coaching visit seemed to work, as Roark struck out Jason Castro. But, Matt Dominguez then chopped one up the middle and, as the ball deflected off Roark, Altuve came home to trim the Nats’ lead to three.
The Astros failed to tack on any runs until the eighth but, in the meantime, the Nats added two more in the sixth.
With Darin Downs on the mound for Houston, pinch-hitter drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single by Span.
The Astros then called on Kyle Farnsworth and Span quickly stole second with Rendon at the plate.
But, Rendon soon did his part anyway, as he doubled to left to plate both Hairston and Span, bringing the Nats to a commanding 6-1 lead.
That is, until Tyler Clippard nearly single-handedly cost the Nats the lead in the eighth.
Clippard allowed Castro to lead off the inning with a sharp liner to center for a single. Then, Matt Dominguez doubled to left to give Houston runners on second and third with no outs. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, singled in Castro to pull the Astros within four runs of the Nats.
And, despite the fact Clippard was able to strike out pinch-hitter Chris Carter and Alex Presley, out number three seemed out of his reach.
The Nats’ reliever gave up an RBI single to Dexter Fowler and a two-RBI double to Altuve before Matt Williams had seen enough.
The Nats called on the oft-used Aaron Barrett, who got Springer to hit a soft liner to Span for the third out.
With the Nats’ lead trimmed to just one run, closer Rafael Soriano took the mound in the ninth.
Soriano got Singleton to fly out to center to start the inning, but allowed a walk to Castro to put the tying run on base. Fortunately for Washington, Dominguez went on to ground into a force out before Villar flied to center to end the game.
The saved marked Soriano’s 14th of the season.
With the win, the Nationals have now emerged the victor in 11 of their last 12 games against the Astros. The win ironically enough marked the Nats’ first since last Wednesday, yet it pushed the team into first place in the NL East over the Miami Marlins by half a game.