Nationals young phenom Stephen Strasburg took the mound Sunday for his second start this season since returning from Tommy John surgery and took another positive step forward, despite a short outing, as Washington capitalized on three straight home runs in the third to defeat the Houston Astros 8-2 in the rubber game of the series on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Washington honored the anniversary by wearing special dark blue jerseys with a stars-and-stripes background on the “W” logo, and also had two red, white and blue logos painted on the field in foul territory with “September 11, 2001” and “We shall not forget.”
Davey Johnson had a strict pitch-count for Strasburg, who battled through the first, but wound up with favorable results in the box score.
The top pick of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft tossed 31 of his 57 pitches in the opening frame and went to full counts on Jordan Schafer, Jimmy Paredes and J.D. Martinez to start the game, yet recovered to post strikeouts against Schafer and Martinez.
Paredes connected for an infield single and scored on Carlos Lee’s two-out, run-scoring single to center to put the Astros up 1-0.
Chris Marrero tied the score at 1-1 with a sacrifice fly to right following Jayson Werth’s infield single and Danny Espinosa double to left.
Strasburg retired six straight as part of a perfect second and third to end his day, allowing just one earned run on three hits with no walks and four strikeouts, to earn his second straight no-decision.
Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Zimmerman collaborated for back-to-back-to-back home runs to kick off the bottom of the third.
Washington accomplished this feat for the first time since July 11, 2009, which happened to be against Houston at Minute Maid Park.
Marrero completed the four-run inning with an RBI double to left-center to push Espinosa across the plate, putting the Nats up 5-1.
Skipper Brad Mills elected to pull rookie starter Henry Sosa after walking Wilson Ramos with two outs in the third in favor of Enerio Del Rosario.
Sosa (2-4) gave up five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings to earn his fourth loss.
It marked the first time in Sosa’s seven career starts since joining the team in which he fell short of posting at least five innings.
Zimmerman added an RBI single in the sixth, while pinch-hitter Laynce Nix and Desmond each chipped in seven-inning, run-scoring singles.
Desmond finished with a game-high three hits.
Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (3-6) tossed three scoreless innings of relief, allowing just three hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
The Astros posted just one extra-base hit — a double in the top of the ninth by second baseman Matt Downs — who got the spot start.
Houston wrapped up their six-game road trip with a 2-4 mark en route to tying the franchise record for most losses in a season.
It’s the third time in which the Astros have reached 97 losses, with the last occurring in 1991 under the guidance of skipper Art Howe.
They return home on Monday to open a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies, who hold the best record in baseball.
It marks the homecoming of Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt, both of whom were traded by Houston to Philly over the last two seasons.
Brett Myers (4-13, 4.66 ERA) will get the start in the opener against Oswalt (7-8, 3.72 ERA), as both pitchers face their former teams.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.
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