Coming into this two-game series with the Astros, the Nationals were 9-1 against Houston since the start of the 2012 season.
We can make now that 11-1.
The Nats swept this two-game set, tonight earning a 6-5 win in a bit of a back-and-forth ballgame. In Gio Gonzalez’s first start back off the disabled list, the Nats took a 2-0 lead after three, but the Astros came back with four runs in the fourth off Gonzalez.
The left-hander allowed those four runs over five innings, walking three, striking out six and hitting a batter.
Trailing by two entering the bottom of the seventh, the Nats ripped off three runs thanks to Anthony Rendon’s solo homer, some nifty baserunning by Jayson Werth (who went first to third on Adam LaRoche’s single to center), Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI fielder’s choice and pinch-hitter Nate McLouth’s go-ahead sac fly.
Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano locked down the win, and the Nats moved to four games over .500 and take a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves into their four-game series with Atlanta starting tomorrow.
Here’s manager Matt Williams after the win:
On Gonzalez’s outing: “He was OK. I think he felt fine, which is the most important thing. He wanted to go out for one more inning, but we couldn’t let him do that. So I think overall his health is good. He got into one tough inning, but other than that, he pitched pretty good. The walk and hit batsmen hurt him, but other than that, he was OK.”
On if some of Gonzalez’s control issues can be attributed to rust: “I’m sure it is. He tried to go in on (George) Springer and hit him. He found his curveball a little bit better late, but command was an issue. I think for the first time off the DL, it was OK.”
On the seventh-inning comeback: “It was good. We put together some big at-bats. With the state of the bullpen last night, we pushed Det (Ross Detwiler) further than we wanted to. But the guys hung with it, and we got an opportunity to take the lead there and Nate stepped up there and delievered for us.”
On Werth’s baserunning: “We talk about it all of the time. We want to take advantage of it if we can. He got a good read on the ball initially hit from Adam, but he was able to turn, and he never thought twice about it. That set us up, and it’s an important part of our game that we need to do. We ran the bases really well tonight.”
On the factors that go into Werth going first to third there: “It’s pace of ball. Knowing exactly where the outfielders are, generally you take a look at second base to know where they’re at because you’re not really facing them. It’s important to do it at first, too - to understand where they’re at for a bloop ball like that where you can go to third. He made a great read.”
On the team’s offensive confidence: “I don’t think it’s changed. We’ve been faced with some early deficits early in the season that we overcame. I think that helps. We’re always in the game, and we have the ability to stretch the lineup, we have the ability for guys to get on base like Jayson did, we have the ability for guys to go from first to third, to go from second then steal third. Then some guys can hit it out of the park. We just create those opportunites, and we’re not out of the game. We feel good about one swing of the bat and we can get back in. That’s what happened tonight.”
On the Nats stealing five bases off Astros starter Scott Feldman: “Just times at the plate and understanding that we had opportunities and guys were aggressive with it tonight starting with denard as soon as he got on base. That’s good. The opportunities have to be there. You can’t just run just to run. But tonight we took advantage of those.”
On Aaron Barrett working out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh: “It’s not the situation we want to put anyone in - bases loaded with nowhere to put a guy. But he made some good pitches. He’s done that for us all year long - get him in a cleanup-type situation like that and he’s been able to deliver. We’ve matched him up against some really good righthanded hitters and he’s done a good job. He’ll continue to be ready to pitch and go out there and do the best he can. He’s done that a lot this year where he’s come in and gotten a crucial out for us.”