Tanner Roark gave up three runs early, one in each of the first three innings, but then settled in and retired the last ten Houston Astros’ hitters he faced as the Nationals got back in the game with a two-run triple by Howie Kendrick in the top of the third and took the lead on a two-run home run to center by Matt Wieters in the fourth that put Washington up 4-3 in Minute Maid Park.
Oliver Perez and Joe Blanton got the Nationals through seven innings with the lead.
Brandon Kintzler worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the Astros’ half of the eighth inning, when he got an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play out of Max Stassi, and Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle locked down the series-opening win.
Nationals now 75-48
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
• George Springer took a center-cut 92 mph 2-0 fastball from Tanner Roark back up the middle for a leadoff single in the Astros’ first, stole second base in the next at bat, and scored on a two-out RBI single to center by Josh Reddick, who lined a 1-1 slider to left-center to drive Springer in and make it 1-0 Astros early in Minute Maid Park.
• Carlos Beltran doubled to left field on a 1-1 fastball he bounced off the out-of-town scoreboard in the second, just out of a leaping Howie Kendrick’s reach, and Beltran scored one out later on a two-out RBI single to center by Derek Fisher, 2-0 Astros.
Professional hitters at work. pic.twitter.com/9guxHjLWJR— MLB (@MLB) August 22, 2017
• Matt Wieters worked an 11-pitch walk out of Astros’ right-hander Charlie Morton in the first at bat of the third, and he took second on a single by Wilmer Difo, and third when Michael A. Taylor grounded into a force at second base.
With runners on first and third and two out, Howie Kendrick took a first-pitch fastball for a ride to center and off the wall for a game-tying, two-run triple, 2-2.
• Alex Bregman singled with one down in the Astros’ third, and took third base on an attempted force at second on a grounder to short by Jose Altuve when Wilmer Difo fielded the grounder, but bounced a throw by Daniel Murphy. E:6.
Bregman scored on a grounder back to the mound and off Tanner Roark by Josh Reddick, 3-2.
• Roark walked Yuli Gurriel with one down in the third, loading the bases, but Roark got a swinging K from Marwin Gonzalez, and a weak grounder to first by Carlos Beltran to escape the jam.
• Anthony Rendon hit a 3-1 fastball to right with two down in the top of the fourth, and Matt Wieters followed with a two-run shot to center on a 1-0 fastball, 4-3. No. 9 for Wieters.
The best defense is a good offense. pic.twitter.com/bMyfGI0fbV— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 23, 2017
• Michael A. Taylor doubled to center on a 3-2 cutter from Morton to lead off the fifth, moved up on a bunt by Alejandro De Aza, but was stranded at third as the Nats’ wasted an opportunity in the fifth.
• Roark retired ten straight batters to end his outing, picking up his seventh K with his 115th pitch before Dusty Baker went to the bullpen with two out in the Astros’ sixth.
• Tanner Roark’s Line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 115 P, 75 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
• Charlie Morton’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 62 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
• Oliver Perez finished the Astros off in the sixth. Chris Devenski tossed a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh for the ‘Stros.
Perez came back out in the seventh and recorded one out before Baker went to the pen again for Joe Blanton, who gave up a leadoff single by J.D. Davis and a walk to George Springer, before striking out Alex Bergman and getting an inning-ending fly to center from Jose Altuve.
• Brandon Kintzler gave up back-to-back singles by Josh Reddick and Yuri Gurriel in the first two at bats of the Astros’ eighth. Marwin Gonzalez bunted both runners over, and with first base open, Dusty Baker walked Carlos Beltran intentionally (Beltran was 5 for 5 with two doubles and a home run off Kintzler as well), loading the bases up for Max Stassi, who grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3. Wow. Daniel Murphy bobbled it on the transfer, but got the throw to first in time.
• Sean Doolittle retired the Astros in order to end it. Final Score: 4-3 Nationals.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Washington starts the series having won eight in a row and 12 of their last 13 against the Houston Astros, and the Nationals have a 34-26 record in the all-time series between the two teams.
- Houston is starting the series with the second-best record in the majors (76-48), while Washington has the third-best (74-48).
- Houston and Washington are also the highest-scoring teams in the majors, with the Astros first, averaging 5.64 runs per game, and the Nationals second with 5.30 runs per game.
- Washington’s 39-23 record on the road this season is the third-best road record in the majors, and second-best in the NL.
- Washington’s starting staff has put up a 1.96 ERA in their last eleven starts and 69 IP, with the lowest ERA in the majors over that stretch, and on the season, Nationals’ starters have the lowest BAA (.229), second-lowest opponents’ OBP (.297), and SLG (.383), second-most Ks (765) and second-lowest ERA (3.53).
- In today’s Nationals-themed “Fun With Arbitrary End Points” segment: Washington’s relievers have posted a 1.55 ERA and a .133 BAA... since August 6th, leading the majors in both ERA and opponent’s AVG since then.
- Washington’s offense started the night leading the National League in SLG (.465) and OPS (.800), and ranked second in the NL in AVG (.271), extra-base hits (438), runs scored (647), and they’re ranked third in OBP (.337), and home runs (178).
Nationals now 75-48