The Nationals had only one extra base hit against the Cardinals over the weekend. They lost all three games and managed three total runs.
On Tuesday, the Nationals edged the Astros 6-5 thanks in a pair of doubles each from Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon.
The duo combined to go 4-for-8 with two runs, four doubles, a walk and five RBIs.
Astros starter Dallas Keuchel (8-4) arrived in D.C. with an 8-3 record and was 6-0 on the road. He had won six of his last seven decisions.
Rendon said the key offensively Tuesday was they waited for their pitches against Keuchel.
"I think just be patient, see the ball up and try to put the barrel on it," Rendon said. "That's what our game plan was going in: let him pitch up. I think he leads the league in ground ball outs or [that's] what I heard. And we just wanted to see the ball up and not give into his game.
"Just patience, just try to put the barrel on the ball. Keep it short and simple is what I try and do, and it happened to work tonight."
Rendon said despite the three-game sweep at St. Louis, the team did a good job of shaking off the sweep for Tuesday's opener against Houston.
"Definitely, I mean, it's baseball," Rendon said. "You're going to have a series like that. That's just why you're supposed to have a short-term memory and move onto the next game. We've got plenty more games to play."
Rendon was asked what is it like to be back in first place?
"I don't think you're ever supposed to think about that," Rendon said. "At least I don't. Just take it day-by-day, and one game at a time, and if we come out on top in the end, hooray for us."
Manager Matt Williams said winning pitcher Tanner Roark's "fastball command wasn't there tonight". But Roark (6-4) battled, found a way to keep the Astros to just one run in five innings.
"Yeah, it was a grind all game," Roark said. "Just one of those days. I couldn't get ahead, but came up with big pitches, and of course, we come out early and score runs. It takes a lot of weight off."
Roark agreed with his manager that his two-seam fastball was not the best tonight so he had to adjust on the fly.
"I usually, I've got to have the sinker going most of the time," Roark said. "My bail-out was my curveball tonight. Thank God that was there.
"(The fastball) was hit and miss. Usually, I feel very good with spotting up my fastball and stuff. But tonight, I was yanking off a little bit. And all the focus, as hard as I wanted to focus, I wasn't all there. Just, like I said, one of those games."
But Roark said his difficulty with spotting the fastball wasn't because of the hot and humid conditions.
"I usually, I like the humidity," Roark said. "I like the heat. Easy to stay loose and get loose. It's the first one, but just one of those games, those hot days.
"It's hot and sweaty. I'm sure everyone in the stands was hot and sweaty. I'm sure you guys were too. That's why I use the rosin. That's why I rosin up as much as I can. There was no slip on it or anything, I just couldn't find the zone. That's really basically what it boils down to."
Roark allowed seven hits, but none of them were for extra bases. He only walked two batters, and most importantly, he allowed just one run. It was the seventh time in his last eight starts he had surrendered two or less earned runs in a start.
"It's definitely a weight off your shoulders to go out there and pitch with confidence even though you don't have your best stuff," Roark said. "Just go out there and give all you can for as long as you can.
"We got some good double play balls which was clutch. At the end of the day you gotta grind through and pitch through. Everybody has them, it's just how you stay focused and how mental it is."
Was it crucial for the Nats to get the first win of series?
"It's definitely good to get the first one, always," Roark said. "But we're not thinking too far ahead. We're just coming out here only 69 games in as of today. It's still relatively early, but we're just coming out and playing one game at a time."