Apr 30, 2014, 11:14 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: A tumultuous opening month for the Nationals ended with a couple of much-needed wins in a comfortable place. Taking advantage of Minute Maid Park’s quirky dimensions — not to mention the perpetually struggling Astros — the Nats followed up Tuesday night’s 1-run victory with a blowout in the finale of this brief, interleague series.
Everybody in the starting lineup except for rookie Steven Souza Jr. reached base safely. Denard Span got things going with his legs, tripling to deep right-center in the top of the third and coming all the way around to score when George Springer bobbled the ball. Anthony Rendon then took over from there. The Houston-area native left his family and friends in attendance dancing in the aisles after going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer to lead the balanced offensive attack.
Jordan Zimmermann got plenty of run support, not that he needed it. The right-hander cruised through 6 1/3 scoreless innings before turning things over to the Nationals bullpen. Aaron Barrett, Ross Detwiler and Ryan Mattheus finished things off, securing the Nats’ third shutout victory of the season and wrapping up April on a high note.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: How much was Rendon looking forward to his first games at Minute Maid Park as a big leaguer? Apparently a whole lot. The Houston-area native had played in the Astros’ stadium in high school and college, but this was different. And he made the most of the opportunity. Rendon went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer. He drove in three runs, giving him a team-high 20 overall. That’s the most RBI in Nationals history for March/April. Not bad for the second-year infielder.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Zimmermann took the mound for the bottom of the first and did exactly what a front-line starter is supposed to do against an inferior lineup. The right-hander went right after the Astros and made them try to beat him. His fastball had some extra life on it, and though he scattered seven hits and a walk, he never was in serious trouble. Houston didn’t have a single runner reach third base while Zimmermann was on the mound. Yes, it would have been nice if he had been able to complete seven or eight (or even nine) innings, but that’s a small nitpick on an otherwise strong night. For his efforts, Zimmermann was rewarded with his 45th career win, putting him alone atop the Nationals’ all-time leaderboard ahead of Livan Hernandez.
KEY STAT: At 16-12, the Nationals enter May on pace to win 92.5 games this season.
UP NEXT: The Nationals get another day off before opening a weekend series in Philadelphia. Friday night’s opener at Citizens Bank Park is a doozy, with Stephen Strasburg and Cliff Lee squaring off.
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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