The Washington Nationals’ relievers combined for six scoreless innings of baseball, allowing only two hits and one walk in the Nats’ 7-1 win over the Houston Astros Tuesday afternoon.
In his long-awaited spring debut with the Nationals, Rafael Soriano struck out Robbie Grossman and allowed only one hit in one inning of action.
Aside from a double off the bat of Chad Tracy, not a single player in Nationals uniform enjoyed an extra-base hit against Houston pitching, and yet the Nats were able to post seven runs – including five runs in the sixth inning off four singles and smart base-running.
Dan Haren started strong, retiring the side in both the first and second innings. In the third, he allowed Carlos Corporan to single on a line drive to right field. Matt Dominquez flied to right in the next at-bat, but Marwin Gonzalez advanced Corporan on a grounder to Adam LaRoche at first.
Haren then walked Tyler Greene and gave up a single to Jose Altuve, which drove in the first run of the game. After all was said and done, Haren threw 34 of 50 pitches for strikes in three innings and gave up one run on two hits and one walk, along with two strikeouts.
Danny Espinosa led off the bottom of the third with a line drive to center, but right-hander Lucas Harrell struck out Wilson Ramos and forced Tracy to ground out to shallow right. Denard Span walked to keep the inning alive and Espinosa came home on a single by Jayson Werth to tie the game.
From there, Washington’s relief staff all but silenced the Astros.
Left-hander Zach Duke came on to pitch three innings of near-perfect baseball to earn the win, made possible by the first of Tracy’s doubles. After Kurt Suzuki singled with one out in the fifth, Tracy doubled to left off right-hander Hector Ambriz to plate Suzuki. The go-ahead run would prove enough to seal a win for Washington, but the Nationals went ahead and tacked on plenty of insurance.
Bryce Harper led off the sixth inning with a grounder to first, but Ryan Zimmerman singled to start the rout. LaRoche followed with a walk before Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa delivered with back-to-back singles off Brad Peacock, the latter of which scored pinch-runners Chris Marrero and Zach Walters.
Peacock hit Suzuki with a pitch that got away and Tracy scored Walters on a sacrifice fly to right. Corey Brown earned an RBI on a single that plated pinch-runner Will Rhymes and Suzuki scored on a throwing error by center fielder Justin Maxwell.
By the time Tyler Moore struck out looking, the Nationals had posted five runs to reach the would-be final score of 7-1, thanks to strong outings by Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Jeremy Accardo. In three combined innings, the closing trio allowed just one hit and notched four total strikeouts to close things out at Space Coast Stadium.
The Nationals will take on the Phillies on the road in Clearwater Wednesday at 1:05 p.m.