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HO@WSH: Astros score six runs in the third

WASHINGTON -- There was one fielding error that let a runner move up a base and a throwing miscue that brought in two runs. A suicide-squeeze bunt worked perfectly and scored another. Three more hits drove in three more runs.

It was the kind of inning that the Astros have seen opponents get too many times this season. But the Astros wound up on the right side this time, as eight consecutive batters reached, which helped Houston get six runs in the third inning en route to a 9-3 victory over the Nationals on Saturday night at Nationals Park.

The Astros (49-96) avoided tying the team record for losses (97) in a season, but they tied season highs for runs and hits in an inning (six, seven) plus hits in a game (16).

Houston broke this game open with that six-run, seven-hit inning. The Nationals (66-77) helped by committing two errors, but the Astros banged out six consecutive hits, including Carlos Corporan's perfect suicide squeeze.

"The guys just kept having some good at-bats and putting it together," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "That's how you have big innings when you don't hit the long ball. It's always nice to see something go your way one time. It was nice to be able to build on that and keep the inning going."

That big inning made life easier for Wandy Rodriguez (11-10), who threw six solid innings to get his third win in four decisions.

Even though the Astros finished with the 16 hits, it was the third inning that put them in command. When asked how much the six-run inning helped his team, right fielder Jason Bourgeois (3-for-5) didn't hesitate.

"A lot more than people really realize," Bourgeois said. "We've lost a lot of ballgames late, but we never stop fighting. We can play the game, and it's great to come out and kind of dominate for once."

Jordan Schafer started the third-inning rally with a one-out double to left, and he advanced to third when Michael Morse booted the ball in the corner. Bourgeois followed with an RBI single and moved to second on a J.D. Martinez single.

Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson both added RBI singles to make it 3-0. Angel Sanchez then loaded the bases with a single to left.

Jose Altuve came up next and hit a slow roller up the third-base line that Nationals starter John Lannan (9-12) quickly pounced on. The pitcher tried for a force play at home -- and had time -- but threw it away. The error let two runs score and left Lannan pounding the ground in frustration near the foul line.

Corporan then dropped a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt that rolled between the mound and first base and gave the Astros a 6-0 lead. The ball rolled past Lannan, and the pitcher, second baseman Danny Espinosa and first baseman Chris Marrero all couldn't do anything about it.

"They gave me the squeeze-play sign, and I saw he was heading [towards third]," Corporan said. "He threw me a perfect pitch up and away. I did the main thing, just put the ball down."

Corporan came into the game batting just .187, but he went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the ninth. His suicide-squeeze bunt ended a frustrating short night for Lannan.

The left-hander has been solid for much of the season, but he gave up six runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings as Houston kept hitting the ball hard.

"It was one of those days where nothing went right," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "They hit the ball pretty good. That's the thing up here. You have to make pitches. If you don't make pitches, they hit you. And that's what happened."

Marrero got a two-run single in the fourth for the Nationals (66-77), but the Astros answered again in the sixth. Corporan drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Rodriguez lined an RBI double to right, giving Houston an 8-2 lead.

Rodriguez gave up three runs on seven hits and finished with seven strikeouts in his six innings of work. The bullpen was just as good as Aneury Rodriguez, Juan Abreu and David Carpenter each threw a scoreless inning, combining to strike out six Nationals.

Mills talked afterward about how proud he's been of his team and how they continually play hard even though they've long been out of the playoff chase. That's probably why this one inning meant so much.

"These types of games might have not been real close together," Mills said. "But at the same time, the guys come out every day and they bust their tails and get after it. It's nice to see them do that even when it's been real tough."

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