WASHINGTON -- Ricky Nolasco looked like his recent self in the first inning, giving up a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman. But the righty then settled down for one of his best starts over the past two months, not allowing another run over 5 2/3, and the Angels offense took
WASHINGTON -- Ricky Nolasco looked like his recent self in the first inning, giving up a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman. But the righty then settled down for one of his best starts over the past two months, not allowing another run over 5 2/3, and the Angels offense took advantage.
After Luis Valbuena got the Angels on the board with a solo shot off Nationals starter Tanner Roark in the fifth, Kole Calhoun belted a two-run homer in the sixth to push the Angels to a 3-2 win.
"Every five days I'm going to go out there and give the team everything I have," Nolasco said. "That's what happened today. We scored just enough. Kole with a huge, big hit there to put us up. Every win right now is important. It takes everybody, 25 guys right now to do what we got to do."
The Nationals and Angels split their four meetings this season. The Angels, who have won seven of their last eight, are a half-game game up on the Royals and a game up on the Twins, who were rained out on Wednesday, for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"Every game you can put as much importance on it as you want," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We need to win. We need to play our game every night. That's what we're going to focus on, the things we need to do in a ballgame to get the game on our terms and hopefully hold leads. That's the best recipe we know to reach our goals."
Nolasco kept the Nationals off the board until exiting with calf cramps in the middle of an at-bat with two outs in the sixth after tossing 112 pitches. Nolasco's performance is encouraging, after he allowed a combined 10 runs over nine innings in his past two outings.
The two Angels homers were the lone blemishes on Roark's line. The righty completed seven innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out three.
• Roark rounding into form for Nats
"He threw the ball great today, except for the two homers by left-handed hitters," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I'm sure that he probably wants those fastballs back, on location, but he threw the ball great. He had a good breaking ball."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taking the lead: After Michael Trout singled with two outs in the sixth, Calhoun belted his 14th homer of the season and his first since July 25 to give the Angels their first lead of this two-game set and chase Roark at the end of the frame.
"Trying to go down and away," Roark said. "Two-seamers. Both [homers] just didn't get down enough and just stayed up in the zone."
After Calhoun's homer, the Nationals didn't put another runner in scoring position until the ninth inning.
"[Roark] pitched a really good game for them," Scioscia said. "Kole got a hold of a fastball and didn't miss it. Big hit, and our bullpen again did a great job to hold the lead."
Nolasco weaves out of trouble: The Nationals threatened to add onto their 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases behind two walks and a double. But with two outs, Nolasco struck out Wilmer Difo, who's on an 11-game hitting streak, to end the frame and allow the offense to take the lead two frames later.
"That whole inning there I wasn't trying to give in," Nolasco said. "I walked a couple guys, but those are kind of situational walks. Threw some good curveballs there to [Difo] there to end that inning and then just kind of tried to slow the game down."
Angels:Andrew Heaney will make his first start after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2016 when the Angels begin a three-game series at the Orioles on Friday at 4:05 p.m. PT. The right-hander last started April 5, 2016, and he notched a 3.49 ERA in 2015. The series will be crucial toward the Wild Card race after the Angels took two out of three games from Baltimore last week.
Nationals: The Nats begin a seven-game, eight-day road trip that begins Thursday night in San Diego at 10.10 p.m. ET. Edwin Jackson will take the mound for Washington. He has been solid since joining the Nats rotation, with a 3.30 ERA in five starts.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington who covered the Angels on Wednesday.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.