With everything that's gone wrong for the Nationals in Houston over the years - misplayed fly balls and pop-ups, check swings and walk-off home runs - it's appropriate that their 5-2 victory over the Astros ended the way it did: with closer Drew Storen ending the game after home plate umpire Ed Welke called Carlos Corporan for a strikeout after he tried to check his swing.
The Nationals have made a habit in recent years of going to Houston and losing series they could win, but on Monday night, they got things started by winning a game against the worst team in baseball. They need to win the three-game series against the Astros this week, if not sweep it, and after a tough 9-8 loss to the Braves on Sunday, they put things back together.
Ryan Zimmerman speaks about his go-ahead RBI in Monday's 5-2 win over Houston
Jason Marquis threw eight innings in the win, and the Nationals broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth, scoring three runs in a rally keyed by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, who had each homered earlier in the game. They moved back to .500, and had a successful start to a stretch where they should perform well.
After facing the Astros, they go to Los Angeles for three games against the Dodgers, who are 11 games under .500. If the Nationals want to put some distance between themselves and the .500 mark, they've got to beat bad teams on the road. Not only have they not fared well away from Nationals Park this year, going 19-30, they've found trouble in Houston in the past, losing three of four in 2009 in Manny Acta's last series as manager and dropping three of four last year to fall below .500 for good.
They dropped the second game of that series after Lance Berkman got a check swing call on Matt Capps and hit a walk-off home run on the next pitch. The Nationals dropped to 26-27, and never got back to .500. But tonight, they pitched assuredly, got their bullpen a much-needed rest and notched a win against a team they should beat.