Nationals 6, Astros 5: Altuve's four hits not enough against the Nats

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals hit Keuchel early and hard. Jose Altuve leads offense with four hits in his return to the starting lineup, but the Astros comeback falls short.

After watching three season of Astros baseball filled with loss after loss, I fully expected this game to get out of hand early and fast at the Nats scored four runs early. The formula went as - Jordan LylesBud NorrisBrett MyersWandy Rodriguez would get jumped on early. The spirit would go out of said Astros pitcher after he fell behind, knowing the offense couldn't pick up the slack. The pitcher implosion would then commence, then required a herculean effort from the offense to come back.  But, there has been a clear change in the culture of this team. Maybe they're too young to worry about the score, or maybe they have just enough games of their belt to be sick of losing. No matter what cliche you throw at this team, things appear to have changed. The Astros got down early but kept fighting.

Things didn't go Dallas Keuchel's way from the very first batter he faced. Denard Span hit a hard chopper off the dirt in front of home plate. The ball bounced so high that Span was practically at the bag already by the time Keuchel attempted to bare hand the ball. Keuchel wouldn't be able to field it cleanly thus Span reached safely. The next better, former Rice star, Anthony Rendon ripped double to the wall that scored Span. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman would smack his own hard double to score Rendon to make the score 2-0 after the first.

One side note, in the third, Dallas Keuchel walked in his first at-bat of the season. Only noteworthy since the Astros are now in the American League, and Keuchel had two at-bats since the Astros moved west. The walk would be erased by Dexter Fowler grounding into a double play, the Astros' second of the game.

The Nats played add-on in the bottom of the third, Jayson Werth picked up a one-out walk. Ryan Zimmerman would drive him in with another hard-hit double to the wall in right. The next batter, Ian Desmond, singled down the line in left to score Zimmerman. Washington had 4-0 lead on the Astros' ace Dallas Keuchel. It was the first Keuchel had given up four runs since May 3 against the Athletics.

The Astros offense came to life in the fourth - Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Jon Singleton had three straight singles to start the inning. Next up, Jason Castro struck out. Matt Dominguez drove in a run after Tanner Roark deflected a grounder causing everyone to be safe. Jonathan Villar would fly out, and Robbie Grossman would strikeout to end the inning. Houston failed to deal a serious blow with this golden opportunity.

In the top of the fifth, Altuve and Springer would once again reach base this time with two outs. Jon Singleton grounded out to shortstop. Another opportunity lost.

Darin Downs replaced Keuchel in the six. Keuchel fought through five inning - giving up four runs on six hits, walking four, and striking out four on 105 pitches. After Downs retired the first batter he faced, Scott Hairston walked. Jose Altuve appeared to misplay a grounder by Span, allowing Hairston to move to third on the Span 'single'. Kyle Farnsworth replaced Downs. With no surprise, Span proceed to steal second base. Jose Altuve jumped into the air three feet to catch the high throw from Castro. That is another selling point for Altuve as an All-Star, he could do a Nate Robinson style dunk contest. What, that's the wrong sport. After the stolen base, Rendon collected another double to score two more Nats runs. Through six, the Nationals had a 6-1 lead over the Astros.

Farnsworth has inherited five runners thus far in his short Astros career. All five runners have scored, including the two Tuesday. He has allowed seven earned runs over 9.1 innings of work with Houston. Just thought I would throw that out there if Farnsworth is already planning revenge against the Astros releasing him.

In the top of the seventh, Jose Altuve hit double down the line and George Springer reached on a throwing error. Two on the corners and two out. Jon Singleton popped out to third. Another opportunity lost.

For the third time this game the Astros go their leadoff hitter on base in the eighth, a Castro single. Matt Dominguez would follow him with a double, and Villar drove in the Astros' second run with a single. With men on the corners and no outs, Chris Carter and Alex Presley both struck out. Dexter Fowler kept the inning going with a single to drive in another run. Altuve followed with a double to clear the bases. Altuve had four hits in his first game back int the starting lineup after bruising his hand on hit-by-pitch last week. Altuve now has a major league leading 94 hits, six head of four players tied at 88.

The Astros' comeback fell short as George Springer lined out to end the eighth, and Houston failed to generate any offense in the final inning.

Taking a look over this game there were a few keys - four of the six hits the Nats got off Keuchel went for extra bases, Jose Altuve is an All-Star period, and the Astros squandered too many offensive chances. The Astros left nine runners on base, and were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Houston has a chance for redemption tomorrow with Scott Feldman on the mound as he takes on freshly off the DL Gio Gonzalez at 6:05 pm CT.

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