Apr 29, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: As Bryce Harper was in a hospital bed recuperating from thumb surgery earlier in the day, his Nationals teammates took the field in Houston trying to overcome the latest significant injury to their starting lineup. They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, getting a towering home run from Jayson Werth in the top of the first and a Jose Lobaton RBI double in the top of the third.
Gio Gonzalez, though, gave both runs (and another) right back in the bottom of the third, surrendering three consecutive two-out hits to the Astros. Gonzalez recovered to prevent Houston from scoring again, but the left-hander left his teammates needing to mount a late rally.
Which they did, thanks to Adam LaRoche. The veteran first baseman delivered two clutch hits late, doubling to left-center in the top of the eighth to score Werth, then singling in the top of the ninth to bring Denard Span home with the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano then tossed another scoreless inning to wrap up a nice, come-from-behind victory for the Nationals.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: What else can be said about LaRoche? He has been, quite simply, the Nationals’ best hitter this month, with plenty of those hits coming in crucial situations. The key throughout has been his ability to go the other way. LaRoche’s eighth-inning double to left-center was his 12th opposite-field hit of the month. He had only 34 total opposite-field hits all of last season. Of course, he’s still capable of pulling the ball when needed, which he did for the game-winning hit, lining an RBI single to right off Josh Fields. LaRoche’s 29 hits this month are his most ever in March/April.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was kind of an odd outing for Gonzalez. He got off to a great start, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. Then he fell apart in the bottom of the third, surrendering three consecutive two-out hits that brought home three runs. Then he rediscovered himself, especially his curveball, retiring 10 of the final 12 batters he faced. Put that all together, and Gonzalez wound up with a quality start — three runs allowed in six innings — but his pitch count stood at a massive 111. On this night, the Nationals could’ve used a bit more from the left-hander.
KEY STAT: Rafael Soriano has not given up a run over his last 22 innings, dating back to Aug. 23, 2013.
UP NEXT: This brief, two-game series wraps up Wednesday night at 8:10 p.m. Jordan Zimmermann gets the start for the Nationals, facing Houston left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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