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Gonzalez, Nationals shut down Astros

April 17, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gio Gonzalez earned his first win with the surprising Washington Nationals, pitching seven dominant innings Tuesday night in a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.

The Nationals improved to 9-3, their best start since moving from Montreal to Washington in 2005.

Gonzalez (1-0) allowed two hits, walked two and struck out eight in his third start for Washington. The left-hander acquired from Oakland in the offseason also earned a standing ovation at the plate when he flied out to the warning track.

Brad Lidge pitched a shaky ninth for his second save. He gave up a double to his first hitter and walked the next batter before retiring three in a row.

Wandy Rodriguez (0-2) nearly matched Gonzalez, allowing one run on five hits in seven innings. Rodriguez lost his second straight despite not walking a batter and striking out three.

The Nationals eked out the only run on a pair of two-out bloop hits in the fourth.

Jayson Werth lifted a shallow pop fly between Justin Maxwell in center field and J.D. Martinez in left. Maxwell attempted a sliding catch but the ball dropped for a double.

Adam LaRoche followed with a fly to left and Martinez came in and shortstop Jed Lowrie ran out. Lowrie appeared to lose track of the ball at the last moment and it fell for an RBI single.

Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single to Maxwell, who was later caught stealing second, and didn’t allow another hit until the sixth. After Gonzalez walked Martinez in the first, he retired 13 straight batters.

Jose Altuve singled up the middle to start the Houston sixth and moved up on a sacrifice by Rodriguez. Altuve later advanced to third on a wild pitch and Lowrie walked, but Gonzalez got out of the jam on Martinez’s groundout.

Gonzalez drew a big cheer after lifting a long fly in the third inning. The pitcher, who got his first major league hit in his last start, broke into a grin as he returned to the dugout after the out.

Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth for the Nationals and Lidge closed.

NOTES: Nationals RHP Edwin Jackson was flashing his new World Series ring, earned as member of the Cardinals last year, in the clubhouse before the game. “You get to hold a piece of history you earned,” Jackson said. ... Washington manager Davey Johnson was horse when speaking with reporters before the game. “I don’t know if it’s yelling at umpires or the pollen in the air,” Johnson joked. “I’ll have a designated yeller on the bench.” ... Maxwell started in place of Jordan Schafer, who has been ill with a cold, Astros manager Brad Mills said. “That kind of wore him down a little bit and we want to get his strength back,” Mills said. Schafer pinch-hit in the eighth and got a bunt single. ... Houston RHP Lucas Harrell (1-0, 3.27 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-1, 1.29 ERA) on Wednesday night.

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