Nationals 6-5 over Astros: Houston rallies late, but falls short in series opener

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Clippard's streak of 19 ⅔ IP scoreless innings ended when he gave up five hits and four runs in the eighth, but the Washington Nationals held on for a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros in the series opener in the nation's capital.

Welcome Back, Bo! Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals started this two-game mid-week set with the Houston Astros having won six straight against the AL West franchise and 10 of the last 11 games between the two not-really rivals. The Nats took an early lead in the series opener tonight when Denard Span snapped an 0 for 19 stretch at the plate with an infield single and then scored on a double to right-center by Anthony Rendon for a 1-0 lead.

Rendon scored on an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals were up 2-0 on Astros' lefty Dally Keuchel after one.

Zimmerman doubled again in the third, taking an 89 mph 0-1 fastball to right-center for an RBI hit that brought Jayson Werth around for a 3-0 lead. Ian Desmond followed with the second straight double, driving Zimmerman in from second to make it 4-0 over the Astros.

The Astros loaded the bases with no one out in the fourth, but only managed to get one run off Nats' starter Tanner Roark on an infield single by Matt Dominguez that bounced off the pitcher's foot to drive a run in. 4-1.

Anthony Rendon was 2 for 3 tonight after lining a one-out, two-run double to left off Astros' right-hander Kyle Farnsworth in the home-half of the sixth inning. Rendon's 13th double of 2014 made it 6-1 Nationals.

Nats' right-hander Tyler Clippard gave up three straight hits and the Astros' second run when Jonathan Villar drove Jason Castro in with an RBI single to center. 6-2. Dexter Fowler's two-out single dropped into short-center to make it a 6-3 game and Jose Altuve followed with the fifth hit of the inning, driving in two with a long double to left that made it a one-run game. 6-5.

That's how it ended, however, after a scoreless ninth by Rafael Soriano. 6-5 final.

4. Row-ark Rising: Tanner Roark started the month of May with a rough outing on the road in Philadelphia, PA's Citizens Bank Park, where the 27-year-old right-hander gave up seven hits and seven runs in four innings on the mound in a 7-2 loss. Since then, however, the second-year starter has returned to dominating the opposition.

In his last seven starts, the former Texas Rangers' prospect acquired by the Nationals in 2010, has put up a 1.93 ERA over 46 ⅔ IP, walking eight (1.54 BB/9) and striking out 34 (6.56 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a .198/.238/.308 line. In three starts so far in June, it's been even better, with Roark walking two (0.86 BB/9) and striking out 19 batters (8.14 K/9) while putting up a 1.29 ERA and a .215/.236/.304 line against in 21 IP.

"He was a little off sometimes with his fastball command... but he used his curveball and his slider and his changeup effectively too, to get back in counts..." -Matt Williams on Tanner Roark vs Giants

Last time out in AT&T Park, Roark held the San Francisco Giants to seven hits and two earned runs in seven innings of work in a 6-2 Nationals' win.

"He was a little off sometimes with his fastball command tonight," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the win, "but he used his curveball and his slider and his changeup effectively too, to get back in counts. He wasn't as crisp as last time, but he pitched good."

In his previous outing, Roark struck out 11 in eight scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park.

In his second major league season, the Wilmington, Illinois-born starter took the mound tonight in D.C. with a (2-3) record but a 1.55 ERA, a 3.28 FIP, 11 walks (2.43 BB/9) and 27 Ks (5.98 K/9) in 40 ⅔ IP in Nationals Park, in which he's held the opposition to a combined .218/.277/.306 line.

Roark's seventh start in the nation's capital this season began with a line drive to right field...

1st: Astros' leadoff man Dexter Fowler lined a leadoff single to right on a 92 mph full-count fastball from Roark. Jose Altuve, Houston's diminutive second baseman, grounded out to his counterpart on the Nationals, Danny Espinosa, who tagged Fowler and threw to first for a 4-3 DP. Houston's rookie right fielder George Springer hit a loud grounder through the middle of the infield for a two-out single that brought fellow first-year Astro Jon Singleton to the plate, but the big first baseman struck out to end a 10-pitch at bat. 22-pitch frame for Roark.

2nd: Jason Castro chased a 2-2 fastball outside for a swinging strike three. Matt Dominguez grounded out to second. Jonathan Villar's fly to Denard Span in center ended a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left Roark at 34 pitches total after two.

3rd: Astros' left fielder Robbie Grossman flew out to right to start the top of the third. Dallas Keuchel took a one-out walk from Roark. Dexter Fowler sent a sharp grounder to short in the next at bat, but Ian Desmond was there to scoop it up and start an inning-ending 6-3 DP. 15-pitch frame for Roark, 49 total after three.

4th: Jose Altuve singled to center on a 1-0 slider from Roark. George Springer lined a single to right by a diving Anthony Rendon. Jon Singleton hit the third straight single through the right side to load the bases with no one out. Jason Castro fell behind 0-2 and went down swinging at a 2-2 curve, but Matt Dominguez sent a grounder back to the mound that bounced off Tanner Roark's heel for an RBI infield single. 4-1 Nats. Jonathan Villar popped out to short left on a 2-2 fastball for out no.2. Robbie Grossman stepped in with two down and went down swinging at a 2-2 bender to end a 29-pitch frame. 78 pitches total.

5th: Dallas Keuchel flew to left for the first out of the fifth. Dexter Fowler's fly to right made it two quick outs. Jose Altuve sent a grounder through the right side, just out of Danny Espinosa's reach. George Springer took a two-out walk that pushed Roark up to 93 pitches. Jon Singleton's grounder to short ended a 17-pitch frame that left Roark at 95 pitches.

• Tanner Roark's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 95 P, 55 S, 4/5 GO/FO.

3. New Keuchel in Town: Dallas Keuchel, 26, an '09 7th Round pick by the Houston Astros, faced the Washington Nationals just once in his three major league seasons before tonight, giving up 12 hits and four runs, three earned in six innings of work at home in Minute Maid Park in 2012, so he was making his D.C. debut when he took the mound in the nation's capital for the first game of the two-game Interleague set.

Keuchel came to Nationals Park a different pitcher than the one the Nats saw two years ago.

Through 13 starts this season before this evening's, the 6'3'' lefty was (8-3) with a 2.38 ERA, a 2.81 FIP, 18 walks (1.79 BB/9) and 75 Ks (7.44 K/9) in 90 ⅔  IP over which he's been worth +2.3 fWAR. Keuchel's actually been better on the road than he's been in Houston too, going (6-0) in six starts with a 1.42 ERA, a 3.37 FIP six walks and 41 Ks in 44 ⅓ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .194/.224/.270 line.

His first start in Nationals Park began with back-to-back hits from Denard Span, who singled, and Anthony Rendon, who doubled to right to drive Span in. 1-0 Nationals. An RBI double to left-center by Ryan Zimmerman drove Rendon in and it was 2-0 Nats after a 31-pitch frame by Houston's lefty.

Keuchel settled in and threw a quick, 15-pitch second, but a one-out walk to Jayson Werth came back to bite the Astros' starter when Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-out RBI double to right-center to make it 3-0 Nationals.

Ian Desmond followed with a second straight double to drive Zimmerman in for a 4-0 lead. 21-pitch frame, 67 total after three.

An 18-pitch fourth in which he held the Nationals off the board in spite of a one-out single by Tanner Roark and a two-out hit by Anthony Rendon left Keuchel at 85 pitches overall. A scoreless 20-pitch fifth pushed him up to 105 pitches.

Dallas Keuchel's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 105 P, 65 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

2. Strasburg on Tony Gwynn:


1. The Wrap-Up: Craig Stammen took over on the mound in the top of the sixth, giving up a two-out single by Jonathan Villar but nothing else in a 13-pitch frame.

Darin Downs took over for the Astros in the home-half of the sixth inning. Scott Hairston walked with one down and went first-to-third™ on a grounder by Denard Span that got under Jose Altuve's glove. Span swiped second with a new pitcher, Kyle Farnsworth, on the mound. Anthony Rendon stepped in next and rrrripped a line drive to left field that made it a 6-1 game.

Drew Storen pitched around a two-out double and an error on Anthony Rendon to complete a 16-pitch seventh.

Tyler Clippard gave up three straight hits to start the eighth with Jason Castro singling, Matt Dominguez doubling and Jonathan Villar driving Castro in with a line drive to center field. Back-to-back swinging Ks followed with Clippard dropping two-strike splitters on Chris Carter and Alex Presley, but Dexter Fowler dumped a two-out single into short-center to drive in the Astros' third run. 6-3. Jose Altuve's two-run double to left knocked Clippard out and made it a one-run game. 6-5. Aaron Barrett needed just two pitches to get the third out.

That inning broke a streak of 19 ⅔ scoreless innings pitched by Clippard and 25 appearances without an earned run.

Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano!

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth looking for save no.14 of 2014. Jason Castro battled for seven pitches and took a one-out walk. Marwin Gonzalez replaced the catcher on the basepaths, but was forced out at second on a Matt Dominguez grounder to short. Jonathan Villar's fly to Denard Span in center ends it.

Work's done! Untuck that jersey, son!!!

Nationals win, 6-5 final.

Nationals now 36-33

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