Nats back Bergmann to beat Astros
Righty tosses six-plus solid frames, gets plenty of support
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals don't have many statement victories. There aren't a lot of blowouts or shutouts. But when the game is close, the young team is learning how to put away the game.
On Wednesday, they did just that, relying on some smooth defense and timely hitting to defeat the Astros, 7-6, and win the three-game series.
"Everybody did a little bit to pitch in today," Ryan Langerhans said. "It's always nice to get wins like that."
It wasn't just the big hits or the solid glovework, it was when they happened. With two on and two out in a scoreless first inning, Ryan Church came up to the plate.
"We were saying on the bench that this is where we need a hit," manager Manny Acta said.
Church delivered an RBI double, and Austin Kearns followed with a two-run double to open a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth, Washington was again able to capitalize at a key time after Dmitri Young and Kearns both walked. With two runners on, Langerhans hit a home run that put the Nationals up big.
Langerhans has had a rocky year, but he feels like he's ready to start producing consistently.
"The thing that has held me back this year is consistency," he said. "I know I can do it, it's just a matter of going out and actually doing it on the field. It's something I need to do to be a part of what they're trying to do here."
On the defensive side, the Nationals also came up big, much of it the work of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who made two stops in the sixth inning.
"That guy saves more runs than he could ever produce," pitcher Jason Bergmann said. "He means more to this team with his glove than anything. He does such a great job over there."
Zimmerman reflects the team's future, and as such, he's not expected to play perfectly just yet. That was evident on a throwing error in the ninth inning that allowed the tying run to get to second base.
Acta chalked it up to a learning experience, and pointed out that most 22-year-olds get to learn in the Minor Leagues. Zimmerman agreed that he probably didn't make the right call, and he will remember that in the future.
The Astros also had a chance to tie the game in the seventh. On a Carlos Lee infield single, Lance Berkman tried to score from second. Young easily fielded the ball at first and threw it home for the inning-ending out.
"I thought there might be a play on Carlos," Berkman said. "I thought Dmitri was going to have to make a pretty good play to pick up this low throw, then turn around and throw me out at home."
Young did it with ease, creating an easy second-guessing opportunity for the Astros fans scattered behind their dugout.
From there, the bullpen was able to preserve a victory for Bergmann, just his second of the year. In the second half of the season, he's had a complete reversal of offensive support. Against Florida, the team gave him 11 runs, and on Wednesday, he got seven. That was enough to put Bergmann in the win column on a day where he said he wasn't always hitting his spots.
"The bottom half of the lineup really got me," he said. "If you make mistakes, they're going to do that."
Bergmann added that he was able to use his curveball more than he had in his previous start, and he had command of it. Acta said that Bergmann's low win total was one of the factors in taking him out after just 83 pitches, and that he hasn't been quite the same since going on the disabled list because of fluid in his elbow.
"We just wanted to get him a win," the manager said. "He's still not missing as many bats as he was before. He's not dominating like he was."
Even on a day where Bergmann didn't have his best stuff, the offense was able to capitalize on Houston's mistakes, with all four batters who walked coming around to score.
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.