Jose Artuf hit a home run in Game 1 of the game, Jordan Alvarez and Yuri Gurrell also hit deep, and the Houston Astros closed Friday night with a 6- 1 over the Washington Nationals, extending their winning streak to 11 games.
Houston head coach Dusty Baker, who led Washington to back-to-back NL East titles in 2016 and ’17, won in Game 1 at Nationals Park after being fired two seasons later.
François Valdez (2-2) clinched his first win since April 7 in 7 2/3 innings and helped extend the Astros’ pitching advantage. Houston has allowed just 12 runs during the streak and has a 0.91 ERA during that stretch. The Astros could tie the club record with a 12-game winning streak Saturday.
Houston went 5-0 before Valdez pitched in its biggest first-inning outburst since scoring six times last July 26 in Seattle.
“They attacked early, and it’s been a while since we’ve jumped over anyone early on like that,” said Baker, who passed Leo Durocher with 2,009 runs and is only 2nd on the career-management wins list. 10th place. “It felt good to have Flambert ahead. Boy, that was the first inning.”
Washington has lost seven of its past nine games and is 4-14 at home. Its 11-23 record after 34 games is its worst since a 9-25 start in 2007.
Baker went 192-132 in two seasons in Washington but was fired after the Nationals lost in the division series in both years. About 10 minutes before his first pitch Friday, he was introduced on the video board and cheered on some fans who arrived early.
This is the first meeting between franchises sharing spring training facilities since the 2019 World Series. Baker’s successor, Dave Martinez, led the Nationals to their first championship in the series, with the road team winning all seven races.
Houston soon returned home again in the U.S. capital, with Altuve assisting the dead center for the first time in Josiah Gray’s third starting homer of the season and 24th of his career. Gurriel’s two-run homer capped the inning for the Astros, and Alvarez’s solo shot in the third made it 6-0.
Gray (4-3) allowed six runs and six hits in six innings while striking out five. After hitting three home runs in his first five games, he gave up five home runs in his final two games.
“Miss. First pitch, last pitch, he has to pitch,” Martinez said. “He can’t just think he’s going to throw in the middle, especially when you have a team like that. They play fastball. Today was a good example: when he missed early, he paid the price. They hit the ball. very heavy.”
Valdez struck out six times in his longest outing of the year, giving up his only one on the pitcher of Alcides Escobar’s outfielder’s choice in the seventh. run.
“I’m definitely more comfortable knowing you’ve got a five-point lead,” Valdez said. “From there, it’s just trying to stay focused and trying to protect the lead.”
Astros: SS Jeremy Peña didn’t play a day after leaving Game 2 of the Minnesota Doubles due to a knee injury. “Hopefully he’ll be in this series, but I’m not sure when,” Baker said. … Altuve was relieved of the defensive bench in the ninth inning for precautionary reasons after slipping on grass earlier in the game. Baker said he had planned to give Altuve a day off on Saturday.
Nationals: Escobar returns to the lineup after missing three games with a left index finger nail infection.
What was the most impressive thing about Baker on his first trip to Nationals since 2017? construction volume.
“They do a lot of construction here,” Baker said. “I wish I had invested in some of these, or some big cranes.”
Looking to the future
Justin Verlander dropped Houston’s last no-hitter in 2019, but the Astros were just five short of Baltimore’s combined no-hitter last year. However, referee Angel Hernandez missed a third strike against Michael Franco, who homered the next pitch.
Hernandez was at second base Friday, which means he’ll start work for Verlander’s scheduled Sunday. Sure enough, Franco will be there too; he’s been Washington’s daily third baseman this season.
Washington donned a dark blue backup jersey for the first time this season. The Nationals used the same jersey against the Astros throughout the 2019 World Series, including in their 7th win.
Astros: RHP Christian Javier (2-0, 0.83 ERA) has thrown 8 1/3 innings this month, and opponents have hit him .153 in 21 2/3 innings this season.
Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (2-2, 3.90) is 3-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 games against American League opponents, but Saturday will be his first game against Houston.
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