Bernadina breaks out, Rodriguez finishes it off

VIERA, Fla. - Break up the Nationals, they’ve now won two in a row.

Might as well start planning that championship parade now.

John Lannan led the way this afternoon in the Nats’ 7-4 win over the Astros, throwing five innings of two-run ball (more on him in a bit), but Roger Bernadina provided the biggest offensive blow, crushing a Kevin Chapman pitch deep over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer in the fifth inning.

It was the second homer in as many games for Bernadina, whose spring average is now up to .279 after his two-hit performance today.

“He started the spring really swinging well, then he got into a little of a funk. Now he’s coming back and attacking the ball,” manager Davey Johnson said. “With his speed, you look at him as the kind of guy who can bunt, hit a few little soft liners in there, but he’s got tremendous power. He’s a big, strong guy. And he hasn’t had a whole lot of baseball background, so he’s still really just learning about himself.

“But I like what I’ve been seeing the last two or three times out.”

Bernadina, who is now 5-for-6 with the two home runs and six RBIs in the last two days, said that he’s recently been working with hitting coach Rick Eckstein on keeping his bat through the hitting zone longer, and not pulling off on pitches.

“That’s been actually the key,” Bernadina said. “I came off the ball a lot, almost roll over. That’s been working well for me right now.”

Wilson Ramos and Chad Tracy also added two hits today, with each guy picking up an RBI.

Henry Rodriguez threw yet another scoreless inning today, his eighth of spring, and he earned his first save of the Grapefruit League campaign.

It was only the third save for the Nationals as a team this spring, who seemingly always either get blown out or are the ones crushing their competition.

Rodriguez allowed a lead-off hit to start the ninth, but immediately got a strikeout and a double play ball to work out of the inning.

“Henry’s been really good,” Johnson said. “Today he gave up a base hit, came right back and struck a guy out. Probably threw a 98-mile-per-hour fastball with movement for the double play. It’s hard to do any better than that down here. “

Johnson said that Rick Ankiel wanted today off to try and get his lingering quad injury behind him for good, but he’ll be back in the Nats’ lineup tomorrow.

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