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Instant analysis: Nats 6, Astros 5

Jun 17, 2014, 10:47 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On the heels of a long — and quite eventful — road trip, the Nationals came home an enigma of sorts. Was this a team starting to put everything together for the long haul, or was a weekend sweep in St. Louis a harbinger of more struggles to come? We don’t know the answer quite yet, but there is plenty of reason for optimism after this homestand-opening win over the Astros.

At the plate, the Nationals reverted to the form they displayed on the West Coast, scoring four runs on tough Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel while getting contributions from several spots throughout the lineup (headlined by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon). In the field, they got a couple of nifty plays by Ian Desmond, who now sports an 18-game error-less streak. And even though Tanner Roark wasn’t in top form, the right-hander still held the Astros to one run over five innings.

Things did get a bit too tense late, with Tyler Clippard battered for four runs in the top of the eighth, the firstearned  runs the setup man had surrendered in 25 appearances. But Aaron Barrett was able to clean up the mess and keep a 1-run lead intact before handing things over to Rafael Soriano, who closed it out for his 14th save.

With that, the Nationals not only snapped their 4-game losing streak. They not only got this key homestand off on the right foot. They also took over first place in the NL East after the Braves lost to the Phillies.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: After seeing their once red-hot bats go cold over the weekend against the Cardinals, the Nationals might not have known what to expect when they took the field tonight. Turns out they bore far more resemblance to the crew that tore up San Francisco than the one that was shut down in St. Louis. Leading the charge were the two third basemen … er, the current third baseman and the former (and possibly future) third baseman. Rendon got things started with an RBI double in the bottom of the first, with Zimmerman following suit three batters later. Zimmerman added another RBI double in the third, this one to the opposite field, then Rendon roped a two-run two-bagger into the left-field corner in the bottom of the sixth, extending the Nationals’ lead to 6-1. Turns out they needed those insurance runs.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The results may have looked good, but truth be told, Roark didn’t. The right-hander was all over the place, struggling to find the command he usually boasts. He scattered seven hits and two walks over his five innings, running up a whopping pitch count of 95. Somehow, though, Roark managed to limit the damage. Even when he got himself into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth, he allowed only one of the runners to score (on a comebacker that glanced off his foot). Roark continues to show he’s more than meets the eye. To watch him tonight, you’d think he had been roughed up by the Astros. Then glance at the scoreboard, and you realize he actually lowered his ERA to 2.85.

KEY STAT: The Nationals are now 20-0 this season when both Denard Span and Anthony Rendon score a run.

UP NEXT: This brief, two-game series wraps up at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Gio Gonzalez makes his return to the Nationals’ rotation after exactly one month on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman starts for Houston.

  1. David Proctor - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    I hope Clippard got the runs out of his system tonight so he’s good to go for the Braves series. You just know Matt is going to put him in those games, despite his previous struggles.

    • NatsLady - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      Well, he hasn’t “struggled” for two solid months, so, yeah.

      • David Proctor - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        I know, I’m not blasting him. He was due for a bad outing after how great he’s been. I’m hoping this was his bad outing and we can move on.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:53 PM

        I am not holding my breath, as I never do, with Tyler Clippard… We will see…

  2. NatsLady - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Yeah, Soriano earned the untuck on this one! Nice game, fellas (except my man Clip).

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    Nice win as the Nats took it to Keuchel who has been pitching as an Ace. Nats pitchers were not good except for Barrett and Storen.

  4. scnatsfan - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    FP “Clippard didn’t have a great night” boy I wish I could get paid for analysis like that!

    Needed that W.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Credit to Roark, who didnt have his best stuff at all tonight for only giving up 1 run and fighting for most of the night….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      He got BABIP’d hard. He was decent and sometimes you get enough offense and bullpen help. A team W.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:57 PM

        I’m all about the team W than individual performance… But I do think he deserves a thumbs up for fighting…

        It seems like he was in a 2-2 or 3-2 count against every batter…

        And then he played whodini there for a sec… Hope this is his ‘bad’ start and he once again dominates on Sunday….

  6. sjm308 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    This is one of those games that if we had lost, people would be going nuts.
    We were going to leave early but Clip forced us to stay
    Nice win, I am undefeated since coming home

    Go Nats

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      I wasn’t getting the blood pressure up as the Nats were the home team. I don’t get the people smashing Clippard. So what, he had a poor outing. If Fowler’s ball doesn’t fall in then the inning ends 6-2.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:58 PM

        Just like Sori has been flirting with the ‘dead red’ zone… Clip has been too… He isn’t fooling anyone…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:01 PM

        He fooled them with the split finger and changeup. His fastball must have been looking like BP.

  7. Drew - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    Roark drops his career ERA to 2.34.

    Crazy good.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    In other news… Royals are in 1st place… Wow….

    Detroit, what happened… Last I remember, they were like 10 games over 500 and then, bam… They dropped…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      How good was the infield defense! 1 error caused by the hurried throw but I loved what I saw.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:12 PM

        You mean the Nats game???

        Oh yeah, they’ve cleaned it up something tight lately… Which I’m sorely glad about… Makes me think that although I don’t like an OF of Zimm, Harp and Werth… I won’t be surprised if Span is traded this year… Along with Det and Possibly Tyler Moore…

        MW covets defense so idk how you can sit Espi and put Rendon back over on 2nd and Ryan at 3rd….

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:17 PM

        All I can think of is that Rizzo doesn’t like the trade offers he’s been receiving and would rather keep the depth for now.

        I don’t mind RZim in LF but wouldn’t mind seeing him double switched out late in the game when it’s close.

        I could see Harp/Span/Werth late in games.

      • dcwx61 - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:32 AM

        counterintuitive…he loves defense but you trade the core of your outfield defense in span
        Danny sits, Span stays
        Enuf insanity

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:41 AM

        All I can think of is that Rizzo doesn’t like the trade offers he’s been receiving and would rather keep the depth for now.

        For now anyway, closer we get to the trade deadline the more likely I think Rizzo is to make a trade.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:18 AM

        Knox, exactly. You know he’s received calls on TyMo. I think you have to hang on to Span because he’s a big upgrade over McLouth. Espi is still your only player in the Nats entire system who could play SS so you can’t trade him.

  9. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    We Are
    UNTUCKED

  10. tcostant - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    Good for MW getting Clipper out of there. I’m sure Davey would have left him in .

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Grady Sizemore who had the HOT spring training for the Red Sox just got DFA’d.

  12. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    You guys kill me. He got the outs, but the pitches that got MLB hitters out, and got a save that will go in MLB records forever (unlike blog comments from some random blowhards), somehow don’t count because you don’t like the location.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:34 AM

      The location looked good from where I was sitting at the time (under neath the cf scoreboard)

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2014 at 7:24 AM

        The location looked good to the batters,too. They were wrong. Soriano gets results with his pitches, yet brings out the bitches. Some here say Clippard should be the closer, some say Storen, others yet already say Barrett. Rizzo and Williams still say Soriano. He’s been overall great this year and has been overall very good since he got here. Sure he’s blown a few and he’ll blow some more, but he is the best closer on this team. And he scares the crap out of all of us. Love it.It’s part of baseball.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      Of course, I could just be over-reacting.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 78 58 -- 18
ATLANTA 72 67 7.5
MIAMI 67 70 11.5
NEW YORK 65 74 14.5
PHILADELPHIA 64 74 15.0
Through Tuesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

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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.

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