Brandon Backe and the Houston Astros were hoping this game would be similar to their first two against the Washington Nationals. But the Nationals prevented the sweep defeating the Astros, 8-3.
Backe, who is usually tough to beat at home, was roughed up in six innings. The Astros’ starter gave up six hits, four runs, and walked three. Backe did earn a career high of nine strikeouts but told ESPN he would rather have the win.
"Nine strikeouts, I'll take it every time," Backe said. "But I'll take less strikeouts to win the game."
Rob Mackowiak went 2-for-4 for the Nationals and had one two-run home run. Ryan Zimmerman was 3-for-5 and scored twice. Cristian Guzman scored three runs.
John Lannan started for the Nationals and pitched six innings, allowing seven hits, one run, one walk, and struck out three. Lannan was able to keep his pitches down and got the Astros to hit in groundballs.
Washington’s manager Manny Acta told ESPN he was impressed with Lannan’s performance.
"That last inning, he had to work himself out of that jam," Acta said. "He worked a 'Houdini' just to work out of that one. The double-play ball was probably the hardest hit in the whole game."
Houston’s manager Cecil Cooper was also impressed with Lannan’s performance, despite being disappointed with his team’s performance.
"I'm a little disappointed, but I give the kid on the other side a lot of credit," Cooper said. "He had command of his fastball and he threw it down in the strike zone. That gave him a lot of ground balls, because he kept the ball down."
The Nationals never trailed in the game, taking the lead in the first inning. Nick Johnson hit a double to deep center scoring Guzman. Willie Harris’ home run in the third made it a 2-0 game.
Hunter Pence cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth when he reached with an infield single, scoring Miguel Tejada. But that was as close as the Astros would get.
Austin Kearns hit a two-run single in the sixth to increase the Nationals lead to 4-1. Zimmerman made it 5-1 in the eighth, when he scored on Oscar Villarreal’s wild pitch. Mackowiak delivered the crushing blow with a two-run home run in the eighth.
The Astros travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in a three game series starting Friday at 9:40 pm CST. Brian Moehler will make his first start for the Astros against the Dodgers Derek Lowe (2-2).