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Freiman's late homer not enough for Astros

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals briefly fell behind the Astros in the top of the seventh inning Thursday before offering an immediate response behind a Micah Owings grand slam to earn a 6-3 win at Space Coast Stadium.

Steve Lombardozzi, Corey Brown and Tyler Moore loaded the bases against Astros right-hander John Ely before Owings belted his second home run of the spring.

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The Nationals led, 2-1, entering the seventh frame with newly-acquired closer Rafael Soriano on the mound, but Nate Freiman hit a two-run homer to charge Soriano with his first runs allowed with the Nationals. Brandon Laird singled to start the inning against Soriano, then Freiman homered on the first pitch he saw.

It was a hard-fought start for Nationals starter Chris Young, who is filling left-hander Ross Detwiler's spot in the rotation while Detwiler is at the World Baseball Classic with Team USA. Marwin Gonzalez drilled the fourth pitch of the game from Young over the right-field fence to give Houston a 1-0 lead.

But that was the only damage the Astros would do against the Washington right-hander, as Young scattered four hits over four innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 72 pitches, 43 for strikes.

He left with a 2-1 lead, after Jayson Werth responded in the first with a solo home run of his own to tie the game. Ian Desmond led off the second with a single, then scored on a Lombardozzi single.

Astros starter Alex White, fighting for a spot in the Houston rotation after joining the club from Colorado this winter, went four innings, scattering seven hits and two runs. He struck out one and did not walk a batter.

"You gotta get ahead. You gotta throw a lot of strikes to get these guys out," White said. "If you get behind in counts, they're gonna hurt you. When I got hurt today, it was because I was behind in the count. I gotta pitch ahead and be effective."

With a pair of doubles on the afternoon, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman -- who remains at designated hitter until he's fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery and can play third base -- improved his spring batting average to .500.

Up next for the Astros: Houston returns home Friday afternoon to take on the visiting Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on CSN Houston and KBME-AM, and be available on MLB.TV. Right-hander Brad Peacock gets the nod against Pittsburgh lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Peacock threw three innings of scoreless ball in his last outing.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak

Houston Astros, John Ely, Nate Freiman, Alex White