No relief for Astros, bullpen woes linger during losing streak

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WASHINGTON— 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 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. 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 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.