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Houston Astros at Washington Nationals: Game Report... "Game Three Of The Collin Balester Era...or Willie Harris Wants To Play."

95 mph fastball from DC starter Collin Balester to start Darin Erstad, who leads off the first for the Astros, and the at bat ends when Erstad lines to Wily Mo Pena in left. Kazuo Matsui lines a single over Balester’s right hip and into center. Lance Berkman blasts a single under a diving Paul Lo Duca at first, Matsui takes third. El Caballo swings down on a high fastball and drives it by Ronnie Belliard at third. Matsui scores. 1-0 Astros. Balester pops up Miguel Tejada with an outside heater. Geoff Blum gets hold of a curve, but just flies out to Austin Kearns in right....Willie Harris hits a double so hard the cable goes out...He’s somehow on second when it returns...Paul Lo Duca grounds out productively to second, Harris takes third. The Guzzz gets one...just deep enough to score Harris. 1-1 ballgame. 

 

Balester vs Pence. The second pitch is in on the fists and grounded weakly out to short, where Guzman guns the runner. Brad Ausmus pops out to Kearns in right. Wandy Rodriguez gets a liner by Balester’s glove and into center for a two-out single. Erstad flies out to center...Ronnie Belliard hits a line drive into the wall 380 ft away and is standing at second by the time Erstad gets there. WWJD? Jesus Flores takes an outside fastball to right center for an RBI single. 2-1 DC. 

 

Kazuo Matsui flies out to Wily Mo Pena. Balester vs Berkman. Balester gets a groundout to short, Guzman fires to first. El Caballo? 95 mph fastball outside, and Carlos Lee grounds to Guzman to end the Astros’ third...Balester lines an outside fastball back up the middle for the first hit of his MLB career. Willie Harris makes Balester slide at second with a DP grounder. Paul Lo Duca grounds out to short. 2-1 DC after three.

 

Miguel Tejada bunts for a hit to lead off the fourth. Geoff Blum lines right to Kearns in right. 1-0 fastball to Hunter Pence, and Pence takes it off the top of the zone and drives it to left and gone in a hurry. Two-run blast. 3-2 Astros. Balester gets Ausmus looking and drops a bender on Wandy Rodriguez for the final out of the fourth...Guzman flies out foul of first. Wandy Rodriguez gets Kearns swinging over a curve. Ronnie Belliard blasts a line drive to third, where Geoff Blum open his eyes and finds it in his glove. 3-2 Houston after four. 

 

Darin Erstad reaches safely when Belliard’s errant throw to first, on an admittedly hard-hit grounder, pulls Lo Duca off the bag. Balester keeps a 1-2 pitch down in the zone, but Kazuo Matsui reaches down and golfs a double to right, beating out Kearns' throw and advancing Erstad to third. Lance Berkman slices a double to the wall in left center, two runs score, 5-2 Houston. Carlos Lee goes with an outside fastball and singles through the left side of the infield. Miguel Tejada gets one high and tight from Balester for ball one, and then a 75 mph curve off the plate for a strike. Fastball low, 91mph is fouled off. Ball two up and in again. Curve ball off the plate, and Tejada chases, strike three swinging. Ground ball from Geoff Blum to Lo Duca,(B) who tags the bag, and neglects to tag Carlos Lee, who sneaks back to first. 6-2 Houston when Hunter Pence takes advantage of the extra out to single in Berkman. Brad Ausmus singles. Balester’s done.  Jesus “Everyday” Colome is on in relief to face the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded. Fastball away. Strike three swinging. 6-2 Astros...Jesus Flores lines out to right on the first pitch. WMP gets the top of a fastball and grounds out to third. Felipe Lopez hits a two-out double to the wall in left center. Ryan Langerhans grounds out to third to end the fifth.

 

Darin Erstad’s grounder goes off Belliard’s glove at third for an infield single to start the sixth. Kazuo Matsui grounds to second, allowing Felipe Lopez to tag out Erstad, but beating out the DP. Berkman grounds to Guzman, who steps on the bag and fires to first, double play...Willie Harris gets all of a 1-2 fastball and lines it to right and GONE! In a flash! 6-3 Houston. WIllie Harris Wants To Play. Lo Duca singles. Cristian Guzman grounds out to second, but too weakly for a DP. Lo Duca safe at second base. Austin Kearns’ Discerning Eye draws a one-out walk from Wandy Rodriguez. Belliard singles through short to load the bases. WWJD? Chris Sampson on in relief for Houston, and he hits Flores with the first pitch. Lo Duca scores. 6-4 Astros. WMP? Grounds back to the mound, Sampson throws home, Ausmus to first, double play. 

 

Cristian Guzman throws from his knees on an El Caballo grounder, and the ball gets by Lo Duca allowing Carlos Lee to take second. Tejada lines out to Belliard at third. Geoff Blum grounds back to the mound. Hunter Pence takes Saul Rivera to a full count with two down, and takes ball four on a slider outside. Brad Ausmus swings through a 2-2 fastball. Stand up and stretch...Chris Sampson gets a swinging K from Felipe, a pinch hit fly out from Kory Casto and a line drive to first from Willie Harris for the final out of the seventh. 

 

“Wild” Joel Hanrahan starts the eighth. David Newhan pops out to second. Darin Erstad pops out to left. Kazuo Matsui takes a two-out walk to bring up Lance Berkman. Hanrahan gets a groundout to end the top of the frame...Lo Duca starts the DC eighth with a one-hop liner to right. Astros’ righty Geoff Geary throws a full-count fastball by Cristian Guzman. AK? Grounds a curve to short, Tejada to Matsui to Berkman, double play. Still 6-4 Astros after eight. 

 

Hanrahan’s back up for the ninth. El Caballo flies out to a charging Pena in short left. Miguel Tejada grounds out to Lo Duca, and Hanrahan covers. Hanrahan gets Geoff Blum staring to end the top of the ninth...3 outs to get 2 runs...Jose Valverde’s gonna try to close it out for the Astros. Ronnie Belliard fights off a few full count fastballs, and flies out to Pence on the line in right. Jesus Flores grounds out to Tejada at short. WMP grounds out to short. 6-4 Houston wins. 

 

Nationals now 36-59.