John Lannan retired the first seven Astros he faced Tuesday afternoon before a one-out single by Oswaldo Navarro got Houston a baserunner. Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez popped up an attempted sac bunt, however, and Wilson Ramos caught Navarro off first on a ball in the dirt that didn't quite get away and nailed him with a strong throw.
Lannan faces the minimum through three. After 1-2-3 fourth for the Nats' young veteran left-hander, the Nats give him a lead in the bottom of the frame, or the Astros do really. A Clint Barmes' throwing error on a grounder to short by Wilson Ramos gives Danny Espinosa a runner in scoring position with two down and the Nats' second baseman doubles in the run with an RBI line drive to center that makes it 1-0 Nats after four.
Lannan issued a one-out walk to Oswaldo Navarro in the sixth. Navarro was the only batter with a hit off the Nats lefty to that point, but after a sac bunt by Astros' pitcher Henry Villar, Michael Bourn collects Houston's second hit and their first run with an RBI single that ties it. 1-1 after five and a half. Jayson Werth tries to get the lead back in the Nats' sixth when he singles to start the bottom of the frame, but Michael Morse K's swinging and Wilson Ramos grounds into an inning-ending DP that keeps it tied through six.
Collin Balester, who should (if remaining options weren't an important consideration) be a part of the Nats' bullpen when the season starts, retires the Astros in order in the seventh, striking out Bill Hall, popping up Carlos Lee and then getting a called strike on J.R. Towles for a scoreless inning of work. After the Nats come up empty in the seventh, Doug Slaten throws a quick 1-2-3 eighth and Jayson Werth once again singles to start the bottom of the inning, setting Michael Morse up with a runner on and a lefty (Fernando Abad) on the mound. The just-turned-29-today Morse takes the 'Stros' lefty deeeeeeeep to right and GONE!! Two-run blast for Morse, 3-1 lead for Washington and Nationals' closer Drew Storen is warmed up and ready for the ninth. 1-2-3 Nationals win.
• Lannan's Line (pitch count via Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore on Twitter): 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K's, 66 pitches, 42 strikes.
Balester, Slaten and Storen combine for three scoreless. Werth 2 for 4. Morse 2 for 4 with a HR, 2 RBI's. Danny Espinosa 2 for 3, double, RBI. Alberto Gonzalez, 2 for 2.