It looked like the Washington Nationals’ (15-12) never-ending affinity for stranding base runners was going to doom them again on Tuesday night, but Adam LaRoche broke the trend. Twice.
LaRoche’s 2-for-5, two-RBI effort, combined with a quality outing by Gio Gonzalez and two stunning defensive plays, led the Nationals to a 4-3 win over the Houston Astros (9-18).
LaRoche made his first bid for player of the game in the eighth inning, when he followed a single from Jayson Werth with an RBI-double that allowed Werth to score from first base and tie the game.
In the ninth inning, LaRoche delivered again after Denard Span and Werth walked, when he smacked a hit to right field to score Span and take the lead.
Though the Nationals still went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position despite tallying nine hits, the clutch hits from LaRoche – plus a solo home run by Werth in the first inning and an RBI-double by Jose Lobaton in the third – were enough to power the team to a win this time.
A strong showing by Gonzalez also allowed the Nationals to come out on top of the low scoring game.
Gonzalez cruised through the first two innings, but ran into trouble with locating his curveball in the third. He allowed two doubles and two singles to give the Astros three runs and a one-run lead.
But Gonzalez was able to regain his curveball in the later innings, and started striking out Astros like it was his job (it is). He ended his night with nine strikeouts in six innings. He walked two, and gave up five hits.
Kevin Frandsen and Span put on a show in the outfield while helping Gonzalez put together clean innings.
Frandsen, an infielder playing outfield, made a shocking behind-the-back catch off the scoreboard in left field in the third inning (video). Span backpedaled up the hill in Minute Maid Park’s center field to make a catch he had doubted he could make in a park he had never played (video). Both catches were made with men on base, and Frandsen’s absolutely saved a run from scoring, which could have been a game-changer.
In the Nationals’ win, Houston managed only five hits, which were limited to the third and sixth innings and were given up by Gonzalez. Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combined to pitch three hitless innings of relief, though Soriano gave up back-to-back walks with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, just to make things interesting.
The Nationals will go for the sweep of the mini-series on Wednesday, before moving on to Philadelphia to continue their short road trip.