Howie Kendrick’s two-out, two-run triple in the third inning and Matt Wieters’ two-out, two-run home run in the fourth inning last night in Minute Maid Park provided all the offense the Washington Nationals needed in their 4-3 win over the Houston Astros.
Tanner Roark gave up three runs early, the bullpen held the Astros off the board, and the offense struck twice with two big hits powering an important win for Dusty Baker’s Nationals, who improved to 5-1 on the current road trip, 40-23 on the road this season, and 75-48 overall, good for the second-best record in the majors, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Baker talked after the win about the importance of connecting for two-out hits like both Kendrick and Wieters managed to, after the Nationals fell behind 3-0 on two-out hits by Josh Reddick and Derek Fisher, and a one-out single by Reddick.
“The inning is not over until that third out,” Baker said, “and those guys got some big hits, just like the Astros got some big hits. I think their first two hits were two-out RBI hits, and ours too, you know, so that’s the secret. The more two-out hits you can get, RBI hits, then the better chance you have to win the game, cause that’s what they pitch for, they pitch to get two outs, and it’s never over, like they say, till it’s over.
“But it was, man, it was a tough game, a real tough game, and everybody knows those Astros have a very good team and they’re tough in this stadium.”
Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch talked after the loss about the pivotal moments that decided the game, like Wieters’ 11-pitch walk that started the Nationals’ rally in the top of the third, a potential double play later that inning the Astros didn’t turn, Kendrick’s triple, and the 1-0 pitch Houston’s starter Charlie Morton threw to Wieters in the fourth that went out over the center field fence.
“Those big moments obviously are big swing moments,” Hinch said, “they had some good swings on some mistakes that Charlie made. Ran into a couple things.
“The leadoff walk to Wieters hurt him. It set up for an inning, we didn’t make a double play, gave them another opportunity, and then Kendrick hits the triple with [runners on] first and third, so the Kendrick at bat, the Wieters’ at bat, really the two mistakes that he made the most, walking Wieters hurt him, but other than that I thought he did a good job, and then their pitching came through at the big moments, so that’s a tough game to lose.”
Hinch’s Astros try to avoid their third straight loss overall, and their ninth straight loss to the Nationals going back to April 19, 2012 when they play the second game of their three-game set in Minute Maid Park tonight.