With the best road record in the majors, the Washington Nationals would seem to have a very good chance of ending their recent struggles in Houston.
The NL East-leading Nationals begin that quest Monday when they open a 10-game road trip against the lowly Astros.
Coming off back-to-back home wins over Miami, Washington (65-43) has won 12 of 17 overall. It's won six of seven during that stretch on the road, where its 33-21.
Washington, however, has dropped 10 of 14 at Houston since it last won a series there Aug. 20-23, 2007.
That trend could be reversed with Houston (36-73) owning the majors' worst overall record. The Astros are 25-27 at Minute Maid Park, where they snapped a seven-game skid with a 9-5 win over Pittsburgh on July 29.
Houston's 6-1 loss at Atlanta on Sunday was the club's 30th defeat in 34 games overall.
Washington took the first three versus Houston at home this season before scheduled starter Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.57 ERA) allowed five runs in five innings of an 11-4 loss April 19 in the finale of the four-game set. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.71 ERA in five starts against the Astros.
In his last three starts overall, Jackson has allowed four runs - all on solo homers - and walked seven to go 1-2 with a 1.83 ERA. He gave up three of those home runs and walked four over 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday."I just got hurt on balls up in the zone," Jackson said. "I got behind on some counts. There were times I made pitches when I needed."
Stephen Strasburg allowed three hits over six scoreless innings and drove in two runs Sunday while Adam LaRoche also had two RBIs in Washington's 4-1 win over the Marlins. LaRoche has hit .442 (23 for 52) with seven homers and 16 RBIs during his last 14 games.
LaRoche and the Nationals will get their first look at Astros rookie Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.77), who tries to avoid a fifth consecutive losing start.
After going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in the first three starts since making his major league debut June 17, Keuchel has gone 0-4 with a 10.42 ERA in the last four. The left-hander gave up seven runs and six walks in four innings of a 10-1 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Keuchel has issued 25 walks while striking out 14 in his seven major league starts."When he first got here he was right on top of everything and now since he's been back it just hasn't been quite as crisp," manager Brad Mills said. "We're going to work back and try to make sure we can get him back to where he has that comfort level of being crisp."
Justin Maxwell had two hits and drove in Houston's lone run Sunday. Maxwell, who played parts of three major league seasons for the Nationals from 2007-2010, is batting .356 with 11 RBIs in his last 13 games.
He's 6 for 8 in the last two.
|August 01, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|July 29, 2012||Adam LaRoche||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back tightness|
|July 22, 2012||Ian Desmond||15-Day DL||Torn left oblique|
|July 18, 2012||Jhonatan Solano||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|August 03, 2012||Francisco Cordero||15-Day DL||Inflamed right big toe|
|July 31, 2012||Wilton Lopez||Day-to-Day||Right elbow tightness|
|July 15, 2012||Jed Lowrie||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|July 14, 2012||Jed Lowrie||Day-to-Day||Right ankle|
|July 08, 2012||Jason Castro||15-Day DL||Fluid in right knee|
|June 26, 2012||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in left ankle|
HOUSTON (AP) -- Roger Bernadina didn't think twice when he saw Kurt Suzuki 's bunt thrown past first base and down the right field in the 11th inning.
Bernadina kept running - even through third base coach Bo Porter 's stop sign - until he scored the run that turned out to be the difference as the Washington Nationals won their third straight, 5-4 over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
"It's one of those things that worked out for us," Bernadina said. "I went to third base and saw the ball down the right field line and kept going."
Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and two RBIs, and Michael Morse added two hits for Washington.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson was happy to get the victory, calling it a character win and adding that the Nationals bent but didn't break.
"Everything conceivable that could go wrong went wrong," Johnson said. "They gave us one by airmailing it over first base then airmailed it over the catcher."
Wilton Lopez (3-1) pitched a perfect 10th inning but Bernadina led off the 11th with a single. On Suzuki's bunt attempt, Brett Wallace and Lopez collided before Wallace threw the ball past first base and down the right field line. Right fielder Brian Bogusevic 's throw home was too high, allowing Bernadina to score and give the Nationals the lead.
"I bunted and said `Oh no, please don't get caught.' I saw it drop, and I said `Oh baby'. I kept running and Bernie did, too," Suzuki said. "It was one of those plays where it looked like they didn't know if they should dive for it or let it drop and they collided and I just took off."
Craig Stammen (5-1) pitched a perfect 10th and got a scare in the 11th when Chris Snyder just missed a home run down the left field line before striking out. Bogusevic walked and stole second but Jose Altuve grounded out to end the game.
Houston manager Brad Mills said he thought his team was trying to do a little too much on the play in the top of the 11th but acknowledged that the Astros had plenty of opportunities to get the win.
"Games like that, you hate to see them get away like that," Mills said. "That probably made this one a little bit tougher. Somewhere, we're stowing up some hits. We get runners on and we're getting a lot of opportunities, but we're just not bringing them in."
Tyler Clippard hit Carlos Corporan with a pitch and walked Bogusevic with one out in the ninth before Altuve doubled to tie the game at 4. Clippard struck out Marwin Gonzalez and Wallace to send the game to extra innings.
Edwin Jackson went 5 1-3 innings for the Nationals, giving up two runs and two hits with eight strikeouts. Jackson did not allow a hit after the first inning and walked two the rest of the way.
"The game was good enough to keep us close," Jackson said. "I have to do a better job of coming out and getting ahead in the count and putting guys away earlier. I have to do a better job of going out there and attacking the strike zone to go later in the game."
Houston's Dallas Keuchel allowed four runs - three earned - and a career-high 12 hits with two strikeouts in six innings. Keuchel has allowed at least four runs in each of his five losses and has given up 30 runs - 26 earned - over his last 25 innings.
Keuchel said it's been tough the past couple of starts "because I haven't been around the zone. So I focused on loading the zone and letting them hit it."
Washington took a 4-1 lead in the fifth on a two-run single by Zimmerman followed by a run-scoring single by Morse.
Jackson led off the inning with a single, and Espinosa followed with a single. Bryce Harper walked to load the bases before Zimmerman's single. Zimmerman was thrown out trying to go to second.
After giving up three singles in the first three innings, Keuchel got into trouble in the fourth, allowing consecutive singles to Zimmerman and Morse to start the inning before Adam LaRoche tied the game at 1 with an RBI single.
Morse extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
Altuve walk to lead off the sixth and stole second before moving to third on a groundout. Altuve scored on Wallace's sacrifice fly off Tom Gorzelanny .
After Justin Maxwell tripled, pinch-hitter Steve Pearce cut the lead to 4-3 with an RBI single.
Gonzalez gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the first with second home run of the season.
NOTES: Washington claimed IF Cesar Izturis off waivers from Milwaukee on Monday. ...The Nationals placed IF Mark DeRosa on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Sunday. .. Washington designated LHP Atahualpa Severino for assignment. ... The Nationals agreed to terms on professional contracts with four international free agents: RHP Ramses Rosario and OFs Aldrem Corredor, Darryl Florentino and Luis Guzman. ... Astros C Jason Castro (right knee) continued his rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday night. . The attendance for the game was a season-low 13,843. ... RHP Jordan Lyles , who is 2-8 with a 5.95 ERA, will start Tuesday's game for Houston, while Washington will start LHP Ross Detwiler , who is 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA this season.