WASHINGTON -- The Nationals scored two runs in the eighth inning and edged the Astros, 3-2, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
Washington was down a run before rallying off three Houston relievers who had problems throwing strikes. Right-hander Fernando Rodriguez started the eighth and allowed a walk and single to Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman, respectively. Left-hander Wesley Wright then entered the game and walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases.
In came Rhiner Cruz to face Jayson Werth. On a 3-2 pitch, Werth walked to force home Espinosa and tie the score at 2. It was Werth's sixth RBI of the season.
"The pitch was a lot closer than I thought," said Werth. "[Cruz] kind of pulled the pitch. It was a ball. That guy was pretty nasty.
"I'll tell you what, the Astros are a lot better team than people know. They have some good pitching. They have some guys in their bullpen that throw pretty hard."
Two batters after Werth's free pass, Wilson Ramos hit a sacrifice fly that scored LaRoche. Ramos felt he should have hit the ball better than he did.
"That was a good pitch to hit a homer," Ramos said.
With the victory, the Nationals improved their record to 10-3, and 5-2 in one-run games.
"It builds confidence. It's good for this team to get wins like that, especially early in the season," Werth said about the one-run victories. "We'll take the wins as we can get them right now. I hope they will keep coming.
"We're a good club. As the season goes, we'll continue to prove it. Right now, we'll focus on one game at a time, and one day at a time. We'll do all right."
For the third start in a row, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann didn't get the run support he needed, but he was solid, pitching seven innings and allowing one run on four hits. When Zimmermann has pitched this season, the Nationals have scored a total of two runs.
"We know who he is and what he means to this team," Werth said, regarding Zimmermann. "He is a big part of this club. We like playing behind him. We like when he is on the mound. We like when he has the ball, from a defensive standpoint."
Zimmermann didn't seem to care that he received another no-decision. The team win was good enough for him.
"A win is a win, no matter how we get it," Zimmermann said. "We are getting into the late innings in the last couple of games. It makes it extra exciting. I'm happy we got the win. I'm just trying to go out there and battle, keep the team in the game as long as I possibly can. Fortunately, I was able to go seven innings again tonight. The bats came around late. Better late than never."
The Astros were able to take the lead against Zimmermann in the fourth inning. Jordan Schafer led off with an infield single, then stole second base before advancing to third on a groundout by Jed Lowrie. Travis Buck followed and grounded out to LaRoche at first base, but Schafer ended up scoring on the play.
Zimmermann would leave the game with his second consecutive no-decision after the Nationals tied the game in the seventh inning off Houston starter Lucas Harrell. With two outs, Rick Ankiel scored on a double by Roger Bernadina.
"I felt great again. Ramos called a great game. We stuck to the game plan most of the game," Zimmermann said. "The fastball was really good tonight. I was able to have some breaking pitches when I needed to. Our defense did a great job behind me, making some big plays when we needed to."
The Astros went ahead in the top of the eighth inning off reliever Ryan Mattheus. After leading off with a double, Jason Castro scored on a single by Schafer, who also saved a run with his glove earlier in the game with a fine running catch on a deep drive to center by Ian Desmond that would have scored Ramos.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team and the way we played," Harrell said. "This was a tough loss today. We really battled hard, we stayed in the game the whole game, and they made some great plays behind me defensively. Jordan Schafer made a great play, and he came up with a big hit and knocked Castro in. It was just a tough loss."
The Nationals secured their fourth consecutive series victory with the win. Werth has played on his share of playoff teams, and he compares this Nationals team to the 2007 Phillies who won the National League East title, but lost to the Rockies in the NL Division Series.
"But we'll wait and see before we compare too much," Werth said. "This Nationals team is different. We are younger, it's super-talented. The team I played on in Philly was a little more polished and older.
"This is a fun place to play, a good clubhouse, a good group of guys, super-talented. What we lack is experience. We keep winning these one-run games, and we keep coming from behind, and we keep doing the little things to win the ballgames. ... I think by the end of the season, we'll have that much-needed experience."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.