HOUSTON -- Mike Fiers bounced back by holding the Nationals to one run and four hits while striking out six batters in seven innings, and Jake Marisnick, Max Stassi and Alex Bregman blasted homers to lead the Astros to a 6-1 win Wednesday night, evening the three-game Interleague showdown at Minute Maid Park.
Fiers (8-8), who will sport the nickname "Kai" this Friday through Sunday during MLB's inaugural Players Weekend, picked up his first win since July 21 to rebound from a bad stretch in which he was 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in his previous five starts.
"Even guys that usually take a lot of pitches were definitely swinging early and trying to get me early," Fiers said. "But it worked in my favor. Making good pitches, getting early outs helped me go deep into the game with 90 pitches."
The right-hander had allowed nine homers over 25 2/3 innings in that span, but he kept the ball in the yard Wednesday for the first time since his last win.
"He had a great game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He was really good from the very beginning with his fastball. I think it was the best fastball I've seen out of him in a while. I know he felt really good and he was executing his pitches in and out. … He had a little bit of everything where he was in total command of the game."
The Astros have a 12-game lead in the American League West, with the second-place Angels still in action on Wednesday night. The Nationals are 13 1/3 games ahead of the second-place Marlins in the National League East.
Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (4-3) -- aka E. Jax come Players Weeknd -- allowed two runs, three walks and six hits in six innings. Marisnick broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth when he took Jackson deep to left field. It was another strong outing for Jackson, as he has posted a 2.93 ERA with quality starts in five of his seven outings for Washington.
• E. Jax making a push for Nats' playoff roster
It was still 2-1 in the eighth inning, until the Astros posted a four-spot. Stassi blasted a 442-foot homer off Matt Grace, and Bregman cranked a three-run shot off Shawn Kelley, the 11th homer Kelley has allowed in 20 innings this season.
"The homers kind of did us in tonight," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "But this is a club that hits homers."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Near miss:Jose Altuve led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick to tie the game at 1. The fly to right-center had only a 27 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™, but center fielder Michael A. Taylor and right fielder Andrew Stevenson nearly collided as the ball appeared to carom off Stevenson's glove and roll away, allowing Altuve to race to third base.
"I haven't played in too many domes in my career," Stevenson said. "This one was especially loud. I just didn't hear [Taylor]. I've always been taught, if you don't hear anything, just go for it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him coming in, lost concentration on it, hit off my glove, and that's something we're going to have to work with in the future -- getting a feel for where he's going be and where I'm going to be."
Jake rakes: Marisnick's 15th homer of the season, a blast to left field to lead off the fifth, was the only barreled ball off Jackson, according to Statcast™. The ball had an exit velocity of 103.4 mph with a 36-degree launch angle and was projected to travel 393 feet. That was a cheap shot by Marisnick's standards. Ten of his homers this year have traveled at least 400 feet.
"Just looking for something over the plate," said Marisnick, who will feature the nickname "Big Fudge" on his uniform during Players Weekend. "[Jackson] was doing a good job of kind of working corner to corner and made some good pitches tonight. He left one up for me, and I was able to put a good swing on it."
• 'Big Fudge' putting up big numbers at home
"I just want to get him a better pillow." -- Hinch, on closer Ken Giles not being available Wednesday after coming down with a stiff neck when he woke up
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Reddick's 11 sacrifice flies lead the Major Leagues and are two shy of Jeff Bagwell's Astros record of 13 set in 1992.
Nationals: In his second start since being activated from the disabled list, right-hander Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 3.24 ERA) will take the mound for Thursday's 8:10 p.m. ET series finale in Houston. He gave up two runs in six innings with eight strikeouts against the Padres in his return.
Astros:Dallas Keuchel (11-2, 2.58 ERA) takes the mound for Thursday's 7:10 p.m. CT series finale at Minute Maid Park. The lefty is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in his last two starts. In his last 13 2/3 innings, he's allowed nine hits, three walks and one run (on a homer).
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