Werth blasts off in first at Houston (Nats win 4-3)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Three batters into Tuesday’s series opener, Jayson Werth crushed his fourth homer of the year, a two-out shot to left, to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in Houston.

Werth, serving as the Nats’ designated hitter tonight, has tremendous success in his limited time filling that role. In six career appearances as a DH, Werth is now batting .417 (5-for-12) with two homers and five RBIs.

His latest blast has given the Nats the early upper hand at Minute Maid Park.

Update: The Nats pushed their lead to 2-0 in the third when Kevin Frandsen was hit by a Jarred Cosart pitch to start the frame and scored one batter on Jose Lobaton’s RBI double to right.

Lobaton was thrown out at third the next at-bat when Denard Span tried to move him over on a grounder to second, but Jose Altuve cut down the Nats catcher. Washington put runners on the corners for Adam LaRoche with two outs, but he struck out to end the inning.

Update II: The Astros answered with three runs off Gio Gonzalez in the third to take a 3-2 lead.

With two out and Matt Dominguez on third, Dexter Fowler hit an RBI single to center to put Houston on the board. Jason Castro then doubled off the left field wall, a ball that was handled brilliantly by Frandsen, who scooped it from behind his back to keep the lead runner from crossing home. That put two in scoring position.

But both runners scored anyway on George Springer’s two-run single to left. Gonzalez finally got out of the jam by getting Jesus Guzman to ground out.

Gonzalez has allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four through three innings. He has thrown 60 pitches, 33 for strikes.

Update III: Gonzalez’s night has come to a close and he won’t be a winner in Houston.

Craig Stammen has taken over to start the seventh after Gonzalez provided the Nationals’ fourth quality start in five games, but he leaves with the Astros ahead 3-2.

Gonzalez allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out nine and was lifted after throwing 111 pitches, 65 for strikes.

Update IV: The Nats do love their comebacks, don’t they?

It’s back to even in Houston after Werth started the eighth with a single off reliever Anthony Bass and scored one batter later. With reliever Raul Valdez on the mound, LaRoche brought Werth all the way around from first with an RBI double off left fielder LJ Hoes’ glove at the wall. That knotted things up at 3-3.

The Nats proceeded to load the bases with two outs for Lobaton, but the catcher struck out.

Update V: LaRoche tied the game with a double in the eighth, and then plated the go-ahead run in the ninth.

Span started the inning with a walk and a stolen base before moving up to third on an Anthony Rendon groundout. After Werth walked to put runners on the corners with one out, LaRoche singled to drive in Span, giving the Nats a 4-3 lead.

The Nats had been 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position before LaRoche’s single. (And they’re now 2-for-13.)

Now let’s see if they can hold off the Astros in the bottom of the frame to earn their third win in four games and yet another in come-from-behind fashion.

Update VI: Rafael Soriano walked two with two outs in the ninth, but rebounded to finish off his fifth save by getting Altuve to fly out to Nate McLouth deep in the right field corner.

It was a long run for McLouth, but he flagged it down and the Nats won 4-3. Tyler Clippard earned the victory with a scoreless eighth and LaRoche was the hero with his RBIs in the eighth and ninth.

The Nats improved to 15-12 and started their five-game road trip on the right foot.

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