Nationals' staff finally throws a dud

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Kevin Dunleavy

Jackson, Gorzelanny are shelled by Astros

The Washington Nationals' rotation was due for a stinker. Little did anyone expect it would be one that would make history.

By rattling three triples to distant corners of Nationals Park in the first inning, the Houston Astros achieved a franchise first on their way to batting around against Edwin Jackson. Five innings later, Houston sent nine more batters to the plate against reliever Tom Gorzelanny to ensure a 11-4 victory before 18,045.

It was the third time Washington (10-4) had a chance to complete a series sweep and failed. Behind a 17-hit attack, Houston (5-8) snapped its four-game losing skid.

The Nats showed life in the third inning as Ryan Zimmerman blasted his first home run of the year, a no-doubt, three-run shot to left center that closed the deficit to 5-4. But Houston had too much offense, getting three hits each from outfielder Brian Bogusevic, who entered with a .121 batting average, and catcher Jason Castro, who was hitting .143.

Coming off a brilliant two-hit complete game against Cincinnati, Jackson (1-1) fanned Jordan Schafer with his first three pitches of the game. But then the fireworks began. Jose Altuve lined an opposite-field triple to right, the first of six straight hits, all loud.

Before it was over, Bogusevic and Matt Downs smoked back-to-back shots to the power alleys. Bogusevic's slammed high off the scoreboard in right-center, a few feet short of a home run, scoring two runs. Downs' drive crashed on the fly into the W.B. Mason sign in left-center.

After his harrowing start, Jackson settled in and retired 14 of 15 batters, keeping Washington alive. The right-hander left after five innings and 89 pitches. His previous start required 92 pitches over nine frames.

In the sixth, Gorzelanny mimicked the start of Jackson, also yielding hits to six of the first seven batters he faced. The most disheartening blow for the Nats was a two-run single by winning pitcher Bud Norris (1-0), who was sent to the plate by manager Brad Mills even though he had a career batting average of .155 and already had surrendered eight hits and four runs on 93 pitches.

Altuve followed with a two-run double to the deepest part of the park in left-center. A run-scoring infield groundout by J.D. Martinez completed the damage, giving Houston a 10-4 lead.

The positive for the Nats was their 11 hits, which included two each by slumping second baseman Danny Espinosa and fill-in shortstop Steve Lombardozzi, who replaced Ian Desmond. The versatile Lombardozzi, a 23-year-old rookie, is making a case for more playing time, hitting .471 in 17 at-bats.

Washington, which has won all four of its series this season, faces the Miami Marlins starting Friday. Nats lefty Ross Detwiler (1-0) opposes Carlos Zambrano (0-0) at Nationals Park.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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