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Nationals rally in seventh for 6-5 win and sweep of two-game set with Astros

The Washington Nationals trailed 5-3 after six and half innings in Nationals Park, but a seventh-inning rally lifted the Nats to a 6-5 win and a sweep of the two-game set with the visiting Houston Astros. The Nationals took all four with the 'Stros this season.

Mitchell Layton

Bo Knows This [WHAT?] and Bo Knows That! [What?] Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Leadoff man Denard Span walked to start the home-half of the first, stole second when the initial out call was overturned, took third on an infield single by Anthony Rendon and then scored on a one-out sac fly to left field off of Adam LaRoche's bat to give the Washington Nationals a 1-0 lead early in the second game of two with the Houston Astros in the nation's capital.

Span manufactured the Nationals' first run of the game. Jayson Werth manufactured the second.

The Nats' right fielder walked to start the third, stole second with one down and Ryan Zimmerman up and scored on a two-out RBI single to center by Ian Desmond, whose line drive hit gave the Nats a 2-0 lead..

A walk, HBP and single loaded the bases for the Astros in the fourth and an RBI single to left by Matt Dominguez, RBI double to left by Jason Castro and a sac fly by Jonathan Villar gave Houston a 4-2 lead after 3 ½ in the nation's capital.

Gio Gonzalez's first start off the Disabled List ended after five innings and 93 pitches.

Danny Espinosa bunted for a hit for the second time tonight in the first at bat of the Nats' sixth, and he took second base on a one-out sac bunt by Ross Detwiler before scoring on a two-out line drive to right by Denard Span that made it 4-3 Astros.

Ross Detwiler came out for a second inning of work in the seventh and issued a leadoff walk to Robbie Grossman, who scored from third two outs later on a wild pitch that got by Sandy Leon. 5-3.

Anthony Rendon got the Nationals back within one with a solo home run to left-center and into the Red Porch seats off Astros' right-hander Josh Zeid. 5-4. The Nationals put runners on first and third with no one out and Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force at second to bring Jayson Werth in from third to tie it up. 5-5.

Nate McLouth hit a bases-loaded sac fly to left to bring Zimmerman in from third and the Nats led 6-5 after seven innings.

That's how it ended... 6-5 Nationals for the sweeeeep of the two-game set.

4. Gio Returns: Back-to-back starts in which he struggled with his command led the Washington Nationals to have Gio Gonzalez's shoulder checked out. The subsequent MRI revealed inflammation but no structural damage, so the left-hander went on the DL for the first time in his major league career on May 18th.

Two minor league rehab starts convinced the Nationals and Gonzalez that he was ready to return in spite of the fact that he walked eight batters in 7 ⅔ for the Potomac Nationals, the Nats' High-A Carolina League affiliate.

In a radio interview this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked what he would be looking for from Gonzalez in his first major league start since May 17th, when he threw 84 pitches in three innings of work against the New York Mets in the nation's capital.

"I just want to see the arm strength and the arm speed and the arm angle, and see if he's back to where he was pre-DL stint." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. on Gio Gonzalez's return

"I just want to see the arm strength and the arm speed and the arm angle," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, "and see if he's back to where he was pre-DL stint. This is a guy that we count on greatly. He's one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in baseball and he's a welcome addition, getting him back to the roster and is a guy that is going to be an impact guy for us. You talk about an All-Star-caliber pitcher that was one of the finalists for the Cy Young in the very-recent past and a guy that we're going to count and lean on heavily from here on in to take us down the stretch."

Through nine starts, including the rough outings against the Oakland A's and Mets that preceded his DL stint, Gonzalez was (3-4) with a 4.62 ERA, a 3.52 FIP, 20 walks (3.55 BB/9) and 53 Ks (9.41 K/9) in 50 ⅔ IP before tonight.

Gonzalez returned from the DL in time to face the Houston Astros for the second time this season.

When he took the mound in Minute Maid Park back on April 29th, the 27-year-old southpaw gave up five hits, two walks and three earned runs in six innings in which he threw 111 pitches.

That outing was Gonzalez's third career start vs the Astros, against whom he was (2-0) with a 2.45 ERA, six walks (2.45 BB/9) and 24 Ks (9.81 K/9) in 22 IP, over which he held Houston's hitters to a combined .208/.271/.247 line.

Gonzalez's first inning back off the DL began with a walk...

1st: Astros' leadoff man Dexter Fowler worked an eight-pitch walk out of Gio Gonzalez in the first at bat of tonight's game. Jose Altuve rolled one out to short on the next pitch, however, feeding Ian Desmond a grounder that started a 6-4-3 DP. George Springer's fly to right-center ended a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first.

2nd: Jon Singleton took the second straight leadoff walk in the first at bat of the fourth, but Gio Gonzalez blew Matt Dominguez away with a three-pitch K that ended with a swinging strike on an 82 mph change. Singleton was caught stealing by Sandy Leon with Jason Castro at the plate, and Castro K'd looking at a knee-high fastball outside that was called strike three by home plate umpire Larry Vanover. 13-pitch frame by Gonzalez, 23 total after two.

3rd: Jonathan Villar doubled to right on a 1-2 curve from Gonzalez. Astros' outfielder Robbie Grossman took a 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. Scott Feldman battled for seven pitches before striking out on a 2-2 curve in the dirt. K no.4. Dexter Folwer's infield pop ended a 19-pitch frame that pushed Gonzalez up to 42 pitches.

4th: Jose Altuve battled for 11 pitches before taking the third leadoff walk in four innings from Gio Gonzalez. George Springer was hit by a fastball to put two on with no one out. A single to center off Jon Singleton's bat got by a diving Danny Espinosa to load the bases with no outs. Matt Dominguez stepped in with three on drove two runs in with a line drive to left. A low liner by third off Jason Castro's bat made it 3-2 Astros. Jonathan Villar's sac fly to left brought Dominguez in from third and it was 4-2 Houston. A cruel curve to Scott Feldman got Gonzalez a swinging K to end a 35-pitch frame. 77 pitches total.

5th: A single to center by Dexter Fowler put the leadoff runner on in five straight innings. Jose Altuve popped out for the first out of the frame. George Springer sent Jayson Werth back to the track with a line drive to right that Werth tracked down. Jon Singleton stepped in with two down and K'd to end a 16-pitch frame. 93 pitches total for Gonzalez after five.

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 93 P, 61 S, 1/3 GO/FO.

• 3. Feldman's June: The month of June did not start well for Houston Astros' hurler Scott Feldman. The 31-year-old right-hander gave up 11 hits and nine earned runs in 5 ⅓ IP against the Baltimore Orioles in which he threw 106 pitches. The next time out on the mound, the Minnesota Twins knocked the 10-year veteran out after just 1 ⅔ IP in which he threw 58 pitches and gave up one hit, two walks and three unearned runs in what ended up being the shortest outing of his career.

Feldman, who signed a 3-year/$30M deal with Houston last December, bounced back in his last outing, however, giving up four hits and three runs, two earned in 6 ⅓  IP in what ended up being a 5-4 win over Arizona in which he received no decision. That outing left the Astros' starter with a (3-4) record through 11 starts this season, a 3.98 ERA, 4.57 FIP, 16 walks (2.36 BB/9) and 33 Ks (4.87 K/9) in 61 IP.

In one career start against the Nationals before tonight, Feldman put up a 1.50 ERA in six innings pitched.

Tonight's outing began with a walk to Denard Span, a stolen base by the Nationals' outfielder (on a call that was overturned) and an infield single by Anthony Rendon that put runners on the corners for Jayson Werth with no one out. Werth struck out, but Adam LaRoche sent a sac fly deep enough to left to bring Span in for a 1-0 lead.

Feldman limited the damage to one run in the first, but gave up three stolen bases to the Nationals, who obviously had his time to the plate scouted. The Astros' starter ended up throwing 26 pitches in the opening frame.

The Nats put runners on the corners with two down in the second, but Anthony Rendon's groundout ended a 14-pitch inning that left Feldman at 40 total after two.

Jayson Werth walked to start the Nationals' third, stole the Nats' fifth base of the game one out later, and scored on a two-out RBI single to right by Ian Desmond to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Feldman's 27-pitch third left him at 67 pitches overall after three.

Given a 4-2 lead to work with in the top of the fourth, Feldman retired the Nationals in order in a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the inning.

Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back, two-out singles off the Astros' starter in the home-half of the fifth. Ian Desmond stepped in with two on and flew out to right to end a 23-pitch inning that left Feldman at 103 pitches after five innings.

Scott Feldman's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 103 P, 59 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

2. SW _ _ P?: The Washington Nationals took the first two games of the year with the Astros in Houston, giving them six straight wins over the AL West transplants. The Astros' last win over the Nats came back on April 19, 2012.

The Nationals' win last night gave them seven straight over the 'Stros and wins in 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams. It also helped the Nats avoid a season-high five-game losing streak after they dropped the series finale in San Francisco and all three in St. Louis last weekend.

Tonight's win made it eight straight and 12 of the last 13. SWEEEEEEEP!!!

1. The Wrap-Up: Ross Detwiler took over on the mound for the Nationals in the sixth and threw a quick, 16-pitch, 12-strike, 1-2-3 sixth. Josh Zeid took over the Astros in the bottom of the inning and gave up a leadoff bunt single by Danny Espinosa, who took second one out later on a sac bunt by Ross Detwiler. Denard Span drove Espinosa in with a two-out line drive to right, 4-3, but Span was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.

After the Nationals pulled within one, Ross Detwiler walked Astros' outfielder Robbie Grossman in the first at bat of the seventh. Two outs later, Jose Altuve reached first safely on an grounder to second and Grossman took third on the hit. George Springer came up with two on and two out and a wild pitch/passed ball allowed Grossman to score. 5-3 Astros.

Aaron Barrett took over for Detwiler with the bases loaded and two out and got a force at second to end the threat.

Anthony Rendon hit a first-pitch fastball to left-center for a solo home run in the first at bat of the seventh that landed five rows back in the Red Porch sets and got the Nationals within one at 5-4.

When Zeid walked Jayson Werth, Astros' skipper Bo Porter went to his 'pen for left-hander Darin Downs. Adam LaRoche single to center off Downs to put runners on the corners with no one out. Kyle Farnsworth came on to face Ryan Zimmerman, who grounded into a force at second, but brought in the tying run. 5-5. Ian Desmond doubled off Farnsworth to put runners on second and third with one down. An intentional walk to Danny Espinosa loaded the bases for Nate McLouth, whose sac fly scored Zimmerman from third to make it 6-5 Nats.

After a scoreless eighth by Tyler Clippard, the Nationals turned their one-run lead over to their closer...

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

Rafael Soriano came out looking for save no.15 of 2014 and retired the first two batters before Jose Altuve singled to left-center with two down. George Springer's swinging K ended it. 6-5 final. Ballgame.

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

Nationals win, 6-5 final.

Nationals now 37-33