WP: John Patterson (6-3)
LP: Ezequiel Astacio (2-5)
S: Chad Cordero (37)
WAS: 59-53 (2nd in NL East, 5.5 behind Atlanta, 0.5 ahead of Philadelphia)
The Nationals snapped a streak of 13 straight losses in one-run games yesterday, but they needed Houston to come back from a 6-1 defecit to make it 6-5 for that to happen.
The Nats got a 6-1 lead on four solo homers, a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice groundout. Brad Wilkerson, Brian Schneider, Brandon Watson and Vinny Castilla all homered in different innings, while Jose Vidro's sac fly and Castilla's RBI groundout both came in the third.
John Patterson started well but sputtered in the fifth and sixth innings after his team jumped out to a 6-1 lead. In the fifth, Morgan Ensberg hit a two-run shot off of Patterson to make it 6-3, and a pair of unearned runs scored in the sixth after a Cristian Guzman throwing error made it 6-5 and chased Patterson.
Patterson went 5.2 innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks.
The series continues tonight in Houston at 8:05, with Livan Hernandez (13-4, 3.37 ERA, throws right) pitching against Wandy Rodriguez (6-5, 6.11 ERA, throws left).
Hernandez won 11 straight decisions from April 24 to July 1, but is 1-2 in six starts since then, and struggled in his last outing, going 5.2 innings and giving up four runs on 12 hits.
The win last night was huge, because now, no matter what happens in the next two games, the Nationals can't fall to more than three games back in the Wild Card standings. With a win tonight, the Nats would actually find themselves in a deadlock with the Astros for the Wild Card lead (which would obviously be broken by one team or the other on Thursday). Also, the Braves get a trio of sub-.500 opponents in the next three series (including their current one with the Giants), so the Nats need to keep winning to keep the Braves from running away from them.
Apparently Minute Maid Park has turned everyone on the Nats into home run hitters, with four diffrent guys knocking balls over the fence on Tuesday.
The problem is that Livan Hernandez gives up his fair share of homers (12 on the season), and the park isn't any bigger for the Stros than it is for the Nats. Wandy Rodriguez has given up 12 homers himeself, but he doesn't get to pitch half his games in cavernous RFK Stadium. Wandy's actually given up twice as many homers on the road as he has at home, but that's deceptive because he's pitched almost twice as many innings on the road.
The Nats will need to find their offense again tonight because, as the almost-comeback last night showed, no lead may be safe in Houston.