Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:41 pm

Astros bullpen blows lead for 4th straight loss

The Associated Press

Lucas Harrell pitched into the seventh inning and shut down the Washington Nationals offense. The Astros bullpen woke `em back up.

Three relievers gave up three walks and two runs in the eighth inning and the Nationals won 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Houston lost its fourth in a row and seven in eight games. Four of the Astros' last five losses have been by one run.

"We're in every game," said Jordan Schafer, who had two hits, and RBI and a scored a run. "It's not like we're getting blown out. We just have to do the little things throughout the games to get wins. The little things are costing us wins."

Houston led 2-1 when Fernando Rodriguez (0-2) gave up a walk and a single to the first two batters in the eighth. Wesley Wright relieved and walked Adam LaRoche, loading the bases.

Rhiner Cruz then came in and walked Jayson Werth, tying the game at 2.

"It was a close pitch," Houston catcher Jason Castro said. "It was one of those borderline ones and it didn't go our way."

A forceout at the plate left the bases loaded for Wilson Ramos, who scored LaRoche with a sacrifice fly to center field.

The Astros took the lead in the top of the eighth. Castro led off with a double and Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman held him there with a pair of highlight defensive plays. He made a sliding catch in foul territory of a popped-up bunt and a diving catch on a sharp line drive before Schafer's RBI single hopped past the glove of the diving LaRoche at first.

Harrell gave up one run on four hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out four and walking three.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team and the way we played," Harrell said. "We really battled hard, we stayed in the game the whole way. They made some great plays behind me defensively. It's just a tough loss."

Harrell didn't allow a hit between the first and sixth innings. In the seventh, Rick Ankiel doubled off the wall in left-center field with one out and advanced to third on Harrell's balk. Roger Bernadina tied the game at 1 with a two-out double that ended Harrell's night.

"You can't say enough about the way he threw the ball," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "He kept the ball down and made some good quality pitches when he had to. He pitched extremely well. He got in trouble in the seventh and we were able to get out of it with just the one run, and then the walks kind of hurt us there in the eighth inning."

Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run on four hits in seven innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.

Ryan Mattheus (2-0) gave up two hits and a run in the eighth inning but got the win. Henry Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his third save, as Washington improved to 10-3 and became the first team in the majors to reach 10 wins this season. Texas earned its 10th victory later in the evening.

For much of the game, it appeared the two teams were headed for a second straight 1-0 game, as the starters held both offenses in check.

The Astros pushed the first run across in the fourth without getting a ball out of the infield. Schafer led off with an infield single, stole second, then advanced to third and scored on a pair of groundouts to first.

NOTES: Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang (left hamstring) threw 35 pitches in a simulated game in Viera, Fla. Washington manager Davey Johnson said Wang would pitch a minor league rehab assignment in five days. ... Johnson said RHP Brad Lidge had suffered from vertigo the past four days, including Tuesday when he earned his second save, but was feeling better Wednesday. ... Houston LF Travis Buck left the game in the middle of the fourth with a mild left hamstring strain after getting an RBI on Schafer's run. ... Houston RHP Bud Norris (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Edwin Jackson (1-0, 2.57 ERA) in the final game of the four-game series Thursday.