Middle of Nats' order packs a punch (Nats win an 11-inning slopfest)

Through 5 1/2 innings tonight, the Nationals' 3-5 hitters have combined to go 6-for-10 with four RBIs.

This is what happens when you finally have your big guns healthy and producing.

The Nats have a 4-1 lead over the Astros so far tonight. Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth have smacked around Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, and Edwin Jackson has thrown four scoreless frames after allowing a run in the first.

Jackson also has gotten in the hit column himself, smoking a single to deep left-center in the fifth inning.

In front of what appears to be a crowd of about 14 people, the Nats have taken control of this game, getting on the board in the fourth and then pushing three runs across in the fifth.

LaRoche got it started with an RBI single, giving him 72 RBIs on the season. Zimmerman drove in two in the sixth with a single, and Morse added the Nats' fourth run of the game with a base-knock of his own.

Pitch counts have never been a big problem for Jackson, who has a rubber arm, but he has needed 94 pitches to get through five innings against a relatively weak Astros lineup tonight.

Update: This one has gotten a lot tighter than Davey Johnson would have hoped.

Tom Gorzelanny, who has been excellent this season, wasn't at his best today. He came on to relieve Jackson with one out in the sixth and surrendered a deep sacrifice fly to center, a triple to former National Justin Maxwell and an RBI single to Steve Pearce.

That made it a 4-3 ballgame, and will put extra pressure on the Nats' late-inning relievers.

Update II: Drew Storen very nearly blew the Nationals' one-run lead in the eighth inning. Tyler Clippard did in the ninth.

Storen came on with the tying run at third and two outs in the eighth and immediately walked the first two hitters he faced. He then went to a 3-0 count on J.D. Martinez, a pitch away from walking the Astros to a tie, but pumped a strike and then got Martinez to fly out to deep center to end the threat.

Clippard also got in trouble without the Astros putting the ball in play, as he hit a batter and issued a walk. Jose Altuve then knotted the game at 4-4 with a double down the line in left. Clippard responded by striking out the next two hitters to keep the game tied, but he had already blown his fourth save of the season.

Against a team which has lost 17 of its last 19 coming into today, this can't feel good for the guys in the Nationals' dugout.

Update III: Well, that was ... interesting? Entertaining? Gross?

Whatever it was, it was a win.

The Nats benefited from one of the most spectacularly awful plays I've seen in some time, when Kurt Suzuki's popped up bunt left him standing on third base and Roger Bernadina sprinting across home plate with the eventual game-winning run in the 11th inning. The Astros collided, threw the ball around like a Little League team and essentially handed the Nats the ballgame, this after they'd come back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it in the ninth.

Exhale, folks. The Nats have their 66th win of the season, move to 23 games above .500 and remain three games up on the Braves, who were victorious again tonight.

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