The Nationals had a chance for a .500 road trip with two wins in the final two games of the series in Houston. They had to feel pretty good as well, with John Lannan on the hill to take care of that first game.
Houston had their own ideas with Wandy Rodriguez (3-7) pitching five solid innings and a bullpen that held its ground, add to that a Carlos Lee two-run shot and the Astros had all they needed for a 5-1 victory over the Nationals from Minute Maid Park.
After scoring 21 runs in the first two games of the series, the Nats managed just a single run in this game against Rodriguez and four relievers. The Astros struck out 13 Nationals batters for the win.
The Nats Ian Desmond was charged with three errors and the offense could muster only seven hits against a previously struggling Astros pitching staff. Adam Dunn went 3 for 4 and Nyjer Morgan 2 for 5, but the rest of the lineup was 2 for 24.
Dunn doubled home Morgan in the first inning off of starter Wandy Rodriguez, giving the Nats a 1-0 lead.
Carlos Lee gave the Astros the lead in the third inning, cranking a first pitch fastball from Lannan over the left center field fence, scoring Michael Bourn, to give the Astros a 2-1 advantage.
Nyjer Morgan connected on 7 of his first 12 at bats in the series after his second base hit of the game in the 5th. Unfortunately, he was caught off first and gunned down at second base.
Jim Riggleman had Ryan Zimmerman hit behind Dunn again and it seemed to help Dunn after he connected for his second hit in the 5th.
Then the inning got really interesting. The Nats were able to load the bases with two outs.
After a Zimmerman walk with two away, Rodriguez looked as if he had struck out Josh Willingham for the third out and a momentum swing play, until the home plate umpire called catcher’s interference on Humberto Quintero.
Suddenly, the bases were loaded for Ian Desmond. On a full count with two outs, Desmond grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning.
Rodriguez went five innings, allowing only one run and striking out eight batters. He exited after 115 pitches.
Lannan (2-3) finished 6 and 1/3rd innings, allowing five runs but only three of them earned. Houston connected on eight hits with two walks, two strikeouts and the Lee homer.
But in the sixth, the Astros scored a run on a pair of Desmond errors to add some insurance. Then in the seventh, Hunter Pence smacked a two-run triple off Tyler Walker for the final count of 5-1.
With the loss, the Nationals record stands at 26-28, two games below .500 for the first time since April 14 (3-5).