HOUSTON -- The Astros were kept in check again Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, where Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark held them to three runs (two earned) on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 4-3 win in the first game of an Interleague showdown between division leaders.Howie Kendrick
HOUSTON -- The Astros were kept in check again Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, where Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark held them to three runs (two earned) on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 4-3 win in the first game of an Interleague showdown between division leaders.
Howie Kendrick hit a game-tying, two-run triple in the third, and Matt Wieters put the Nationals ahead, 4-3, with a two-out, two-run homer to right field in the fourth, snapping an 0-for-17 slump. All four runs came against Astros starter Charlie Morton (10-6), who worked six innings.
The Astros, who have been held to three runs or fewer in their past five games, have an 11 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the American League West, after the Halos' win over the Rangers Tuesday night. The Nationals are 13 1/2 games up on the second-place Marlins in the National League East.
"You're not going to be able to get away with not playing your best," Wieters said. "So you know you're going to have to come and bring your 'A' game all three of these games here. We were able to do it tonight, and we'll have to do the same thing tomorrow if we want to get a win."
The Astros got RBI singles from Josh Reddick in the first and Derek Fisher in the second to take a 2-0 lead. After Kendrick tied it up, Reddick's infield hit off Roark's foot pushed across a run and put Houston ahead, 3-2, but Roark pitched out of a bases-loaded jam later in the inning to prevent further damage.
The Nats pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, too, getting Max Stassi to hit into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
"They did a good job of winning those spots, especially in the third," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had a little bit of an opportunity in the eighth, as well. Those big moments are big swing moments. They had some good swings on pitches Charlie made, and their pitching came through in the big moments. Tough game to lose."
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Can't turn two: The Astros likely would have escaped the third inning without having given up a run had they been able to turn a double play. Michael Taylor hit a grounder to third base that resulted in an out at second, but Jose Altuve's relay throw bounced out of the glove of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, putting runners at first and third with one out. After Alejandro De Aza struck out, Kendrick delivered his game-tying triple.
Out of the fire: After Reddick's second RBI single gave the Astros a 3-2 lead, Gurriel followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. Roark struck out Marwin Gonzalez swinging and got Carlos Beltran to bounce out weakly to first base, and that began a stretch of 12 Astros hitters in a row who were sent down by Nationals pitching, 10 by Roark.
"I felt like I got a little mad," Roark said. "Got a little fight within me. I knew it was going to be a battle right off the bat, so just tried to use that to my advantage and just go at them, be aggressive and make my pitches."
Out of the fire II: The Nationals worked their way out of another bases-loaded jam in the eighth, with Brandon Kintzler on the mound. Reddick and Gurriel began the inning with singles, and Gonzalez pushed them to second and third with a sac bunt. An intentional walk to Beltran brought up Stassi, who fouled off several pitches before hitting into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
"I think people like to get a strike right there, but a strikeout is not what I really wanted," Kintzler said. "I wanted him to get a ground ball; that way we can get two for one and get out of there."
The Astros were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"I was looking to elevate that sinker and drive the ball to the outfield," Stassi said. "He just executed another one on me, and I have to tip my cap to him. He won that battle and he was locating well on me."
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"I'm not a big fan of the bunt all the time, but we did need to ignite some form of offense to put pressure on them, something we hadn't done in the previous five or six innings. It didn't work out." -- Hinch, on Gonzalez's sac bunt in the eighth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Since joining the Nationals, Sean Doolittle has converted all 12 of his save opportunities.
Nationals:Edwin Jackson (4-2, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound for the second game of this three-game set Wednesday night. He is coming off an efficient 83-pitch, seven-inning outing against the Padres that improved his ERA to 2.92 in six starts with the Nats. First pitch is set for 8:10 p.m. ET.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (7-8, 4.32 ERA) will start Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Nationals at Minute Maid Park. He is 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in his last five starts, having allowed 29 hits (including nine home runs) in 25 2/3 innings. In his 10 starts prior to that stretch, he was 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA with only four homers allowed in 65 innings. .
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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.