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Nationals edge Astros in 11th inning

Aug 25, 2017

HOUSTON -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker had pushed the proper strategic buttons to no avail in the eighth and ninth innings, so when the decision to play small ball paid lasting dividends in the 11th, it felt as if things balanced justly for Washington.

Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters delivered run-scoring plate appearances in the 11th inning, and the Nationals took advantage of some fortuitous bounces for a 5-4 interleague victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.

Rendon (2-for-3) produced a sacrifice fly that gave the Nationals the lead. Wieters (2-for-4) followed with a two-out single to right-center field that scored Ryan Zimmerman from first base. Zimmerman had reached on a wild pitch following a strikeout.

Wilmer Difo scored the first run of the frame after reaching on a bunt single, just beating the throw from rookie third baseman J.D. Davis, who approached the ball with a casual pace. Difo advanced to third on the wild pitch by Astros right-hander Tyler Clippard (2-7).

“The ball just rolled our way,” said Rendon, who played his high school and college ball in Houston. “Difo got a little bunt down. He’s a quick guy, so he beat it out, and Zim had that play to get runners in scoring position. I got jammed and was able to hit it far enough to get a run home. Everything just happened to fall our way, so we were fortunate.”

Davis slugged his first career home run in the bottom of the 11th off Nationals left-hander Sammy Solis, who recovered to retire the next three batters and record his first save. Houston native Matt Albers (7-2) earned the win for the Nationals with a perfect 10th inning.

Trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Astros (77-50) rallied against Brandon Kintzler. The Nationals right-hander flipped roles with southpaw closer Sean Doolittle after Doolittle allowed a run in the eighth when he was summoned to face a lefty-heavy part of the order.

Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick recorded singles against Kintzler, with Bregman scoring on the Reddick hit to slice the deficit to one run. One batter later, Yuli Gurriel, a right-handed hitter like Bregman, doubled to the left-center gap, and Reddick rounded the bases from first to tie the game at 3-3.

“I like the way we swung the bats tonight,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We can build on that.”

Stephen Strasburg worked six scoreless innings for the Nationals, retiring his first seven batters. He sidestepped the only significant trouble he encountered by inducing an inning-ending double-play grounder from Gurriel with the teams locked in a scoreless tie in the fourth.

After surrendering a two-out double to Bregman and being visited by trainers for a left calf cramp in the sixth, Strasburg got Jose Altuve to fly out to left field to cap his appearance. He allowed three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over 90 pitches, including 60 strikes.

“Command has been pretty good,” said Strasburg, who departed early as a precaution. “Changeup’s been really good, so I’m just trying to keep it together and hopefully do it again next time.”

Rendon doubled twice to pace the Nationals (76-49), who scratched across two runs in the fifth off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Michael Taylor added a run-scoring double to right-center field in the seventh to plate Wieters from first base to extend the Washington lead to 3-0.

Keuchel allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts over seven innings. The walks came in succession to open the fifth and ignite the Washington rally, one aided by a throwing error by Keuchel, a three-time Gold Glove winner.

“I was not trying to throw balls for sure,” Keuchel said. “Rendon is a really good hitter. I made a mistake there my first at-bat, and that one didn’t hurt, but the one to Wieters did to put two on. Then I get a 45-footer that I usually make a good play, and I just happened to throw it up the line. It kind of snowballed from there for a little bit.”

NOTES: Astros C Brian McCann was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk. McCann missed nine games due to right knee soreness. ... Nationals RHP A.J. Cole will start the series opener against the Mets on Friday, with LHP Gio Gonzalez bumped back to Saturday. Gonzalez threw a season-high 121 pitches in his previous start on Sunday at San Diego, and based on that workload, Nationals manager Dusty Baker deemed it prudent to give Gonzalez an extra day of rest. ... With Double-A Corpus Christi cancelling games this weekend in deference to Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the Gulf Coast, Astros C Evan Gattis (concussion) returned early from his rehab assignment. Gattis could be reinstated from the disabled list this weekend, when the Astros play at the Los Angeles Angels.


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