Nationals sweep two-game set with Astros with 7-0 win on Anthony Rendon Night in Houston

Thomas B. Shea

Hometown hero Anthony Rendon went 4 for 5 with two doubles, a single and an opposite field home run in the Washington Nationals' 7-0 win over the Houston Astros tonight in Minute Maid Park. Jordan Zimmermann's win made Nats' history...

I Miss The Astrodome Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Denard Span lined a 3-2 fastball from Houston Astros' lefty Brett Oberholtzer to the right-center field gap in Minute Maid Park for what was going to be a triple no matter what the outfielders did, but rookie right fielder George Spring misplayed it into a run, slipping, failing to pick the ball up three times and only getting it back in after Span was around third and headed for home run. Not an inside-the-park home run, but just as exciting.

Triple + E9 = 1-0.

Nats' left fielder Kevin Frandsen singled to center to start the fourth, then aggressively took third base on a second single to center by catcher Sandy Leon. Astros' outfielder Dexter Fowler threw too late to third and third baseman Matt Dominguez threw to first on the play, trying to catch Sandy Leon off first base, but sent a throw by Jesus Guzman and the bag. Frandsen came in on the error on Guzman and the Nationals took a 2-0 lead. Denard Span singled in the next at bat and he and Leon scored on an Anthony Rendon double to left that made it 4-0. A broken bat single to center by Jayson Werth brought Rendon in too, 5-0 after three and a 1/2 in MMP.

Danny Espinosa got hold off a 2-2 fastball from Oberholtzer in the top of the fifth and hit a two-out blast off the wall behind the Crawford Boxes. Home run no.3 of 2014 for the Nationals' second baseman. 6-0 Nats over the Astros after four and a half.

Anthony Rendon made it 7-0 Nationals with a solo home run to right field off Astros' reliever Paul Clemens.

The opposite field blast was Rendon's fourth of the year and his fourth hit of the night. 4 for 4 with two doubles and home run.

Jordan Zimmermann's line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 110 P, 72 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

With the win tonight, Jordan Zimmermann, with 45 W's, passed Livan Hernandez for the most wins by a pitcher since baseball returned to the nation's capital in 2005.

4. LaRoche/Moore: Adam LaRoche was 0 for 3 before he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of last night's game against Astros' lefty Raul Valdes.

LaRoche struggled to hit left-handed pitching in 2013, posting a .198/.254/.313 line in 142 plate appearances after having put up a .268/.319/.506 line against lefties in his career-year in 2012.

After he doubled in the tying run in the seventh last night with a line drive to the wall in left-center that Dexter Fowler leapt for but couldn't come up with, the Nats' middle of the order bat was 6 for 20 (.333/.455/.444) in 23 PAs vs LHPs this season.

LaRoche singled to right field in his final at bat in the ninth, driving in Denard Span for the winning run in what ended up a 4-3 game in the Nationals' favor.

With his 2 for 5 night in Houston, LaRoche was sporting a .312/.413/.495 line through 25 games and 109 PAs so far in 2014.

After last night's game, Nats' skipper Matt Williams once again reiterated that when his first baseman is going right, he's hitting the ball back up the middle and to the opposite field as he did on his RBI double in his next-to-last at bat in the first game with the Astros.

"It's the middle of the diamond," WIlliams said, "and when he's right and when he feels good, the ball goes to the middle of the diamond. Staying on lefties, hitting the ball to left-center. The ball he hit, the double he hit, is typical of him when he's seeing it and going well. He's been that way all season."

With a left-hander on the hill tonight for the Astros, and LaRoche reportedly nursing a sore quad, Williams took the opportunity to get him two days in a row off with tomorrow a travel day.

In LaRoche's place, Tyler Moore started at first. Moore crushed left-handers at Triple-A last season, posting a .366/.451/.707 line in 41 ABs. In the majors, however, he has a .220/.277/.393 line vs left-handed pitchers.

Against Brett Oberholtzer tonight, Moore was 0 for 3...

3. One More W: With a win tonight against the Astros, Jordan Zimmermann would become the winningest pitcher in the third era of baseball in the nation's capital ('05-present). Zimmermann's win over the Miami Marlins on April 14th tied him with Livan Hernandez at 44 wins. Zimmermann was facing Houston tonight for the first time since 2012, when he was (1-0) with a 0.69 ERA in two starts against the Astros, who were then an NL team.

In his career, the '07 Nats' 2nd Round pick was (1-2) against Houston before tonight with a 3.70 ERA, three walks and 25 Ks in 24 1/3 IP, over which he'd held Astros' hitters to a .216/.266/.352 line. Three of his four career starts against Houston, now an AL West team, took place in Minute Maid Park, where he starter the night with a 4.67 ERA, three walks (1.56 BB/9) and 22 Ks (11.42 K/9) in 17 1/3 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .231/.286/.400 line...

1st: Jose Altuve grounded out to short to start the Astros' first. Dexter Fowler worked the count full, fouled a few off, but grounded out to Tyler Moore at first, who tossed to the covering pitcher, ending a nine-pitch at bat. Jason Castro worked the count full too but went down swinging at a high 95 mph heater that ended an 11-pitch at bat. 22-pitch first for Zimmermann. 0-0 after one.

2nd: George Springer popped out to second. Jesus Guzman took a 95 mph 2-2 fastball back up the middle for a one-out single to center field. Astros' outfielder Alex Presley grounded into a force at second for out no.2. Ian Desmond played a bounce off Jordan Zimmermann's leg and threw Chris Carter out at first to end a 17-pitch second. Nice barehand play by Desmond, and a nice play by Tyler Moore to go up and get it and get his back foot on the bag. 39 pitches overall after two scoreless by Zimmermann.

3rd: Matt Dominguez went to a full count in the first at bat of the third and took the first walk of the night from Jordan Zimmermann. Astros' shortstop Jonathan Villar fell behind 0-2 quickly and took a 94 mph 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. Jose Altuve flew out to center on a 1-0 fastball for out no.2. Dexter Fowler fell behind 0-2, and took a 2-2 change inside for another called strike three. 19-pitch 3rd, 58 overall after three.

4th: Given a 5-0 lead to work with, Jordan Zimmermann struck Jason Castro out with a 94 mph full-count fastball outside in the first at bat of the fourth. Ian Desmond pocketed a grounder deep in the hole at short off George Springer's bat. Jesus Guzman hit another sharp grounder to short in the next at bat and it ate up Ian Desmond's backhand. No play. Alex Presley fell behind in the count, 0-2, and popped to third for out no.2. Chris Carter grounded into a force at second to end the inning after 15 pitches from Zimmermann, who was up to 73 total.

5th: Astros' third baseman Matt Dominguez flew out to left on a high fly ball left fielder Kevin Frandsen got under. Jonathan Villar singled on a grounder to second base in spite of a nice effort by Danny Espinosa. Jose Altuve was first-pitch swinging and lined to left to put two on with one out. Dexter Fowler hit a broken-bat blooper to short for out no.2 and Jason Castro K'd looking to strand two runners and end a 15-pitch inning. 88 overall for Zimmermann after five scoreless.

6th: Jordan Zimmermann threw a 1-2 slider by George Springer. Jesus Guzman grounded sharply to short where Anthony Rendon made a diving play and strong throw. A groundout to second by Alex Presley ended a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth. 101 overall for Zimmermann after six scoreless.

7th: Zimmermann took the mound again in the seventh and struck Chris Carter out with a 1-2 slider. Matt Dominguez singled to left on a first-pitch fastball. Jonathan Villar sent a chopper through the right side to put two runners on. With Zimmermann up to 110 pitches, Matt Williams went to his pen...

Jordan Zimmermann's line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 110 P, 72 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

2. The Owls Are Not What They Seem: Anthony Rendon singled with one down in the third in his second at bat last night, but was stranded two outs later. Though he went hitless in his final three at bats of his first game back in Houston since he attended college at Rice from 2009-11, Rendon's groundout in his final at bat in the ninth inning ended up being a pivotal play in the Nationals' win.

After battling Astros' right-hander Josh Fields with Denard Span on second base in what was then a 3-3 game, Rendon grounded out to the right side of the infield to put the go-ahead run on third with one down.

Span ended up scoring on Adam LaRoche's RBI single to right and the Nationals took a 4-3 lead in what ended up being their 15th win of the season.

Nats' skipper Matt Williams praised Rendon's work in that at bat in his own post game press conference.

"He can handle the bat," Williams said. "And it wasn't exactly what he wanted, but he advanced the guy to third and we were able to get him in. So that's team baseball."

In his first at bat tonight, Rendon battled Astros' lefty Brett Oberholtzer for seven pitches before doubling to right-center on a 91 mph full-count fastball for his ninth two-base hit of the season.

Make that 12 for 22 after Rendon lined a 1-2 curve to right in the third for a single.

Rendon's two-run double to left in the fourth left him 13 for 23 vs LHP this season and 3 for 3 with two doubles tonight. After driving two in, he scored himself to make it 5-0 Nationals after three and a half.

He wasn't facing a left-hander in his fourth at bat, but he collected another hit, taking a 2-1 change from Paul Clemens to right for an opposite field blast that left him 4 for 4 tonight with four home runs on the season.

At bat no.5 for Rendon came in the top of the eighth... but he flew out to left field. 4 for 5...

1. The Wrap-Up: Aaron Barrett took over on the mound for Jordan Zimmermann with two on and one out in the seventh. Barrett threw a two-strike slider by Jose Altuve for the second out of the inning. L.J. Hoes groundout to short ended the inning with both runners Barrett inherited stranded. Still 7-0 Nats. Ross Detwiler put two runners on but completed a scoreless eighth. Ryan Mattheus handled the ninth. Ballgame.

Nationals now 16-12

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