WASHINGTON (AP) - The Houston Astros got a taste of Stephen Strasburg last season. In his second start of 2011, he pitched three innings against them. On Monday, they got to see him for six, and didn't do much with him for the first five.
Strasburg toyed with the Astros for five innings, allowing just three singles, but Houston got to him in the sixth for two runs and three hits. After he left for a pinch-hitter, Washington scored four runs and beat the Astros 6-3.
It was Houston's fifth loss in six games.
``We've only seen him twice in two years, but he was noticeably sharper tonight, there's no doubt about it,' Astros manager Brad Mills said.
Strasburg (2-0) walked one and struck out five. He hasn't allowed a home run in 50 1-3 innings - since Aug. 15, 2010. His ERA rose from 0.69 to 1.42.
Steve Lombardozzi had three singles and a two-run double in the sixth off Kyle Weiland (0-2) that gave Washington a 4-2 lead. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a two-run single.
Weiland started for the seventh time in his major league career and is winless in five decisions.
He knew he was facing Strasburg and admitted to feeling a little pressure.
``You try to focus on your own game. Obviously, you know that's in the back of your mind. He's going to go out there and give his best, and it's probably going to be a low-scoring game,' Weiland said.
Weiland allowed two runs in the first five, too, but didn't make it out of the sixth.
``I think I took it a little too far and put a little too much effort into that sixth inning,' Weiland said.
In the sixth, Jordan Schafer and Jed Lowrie led off with singles against Strasburg. On the ninth pitch of his at-bat, J.D. Martinez walked to load the bases. Carlos Lee flied out to center fielder Rick Ankiel, but Schafer elected not to attempt scoring. Ankiel's throw home was perfect.
After Strasburg struck out Travis Buck, Chris Johnson hit a two-run single to tie the score.
``With every pitcher I think, as you go and as you get at_bats off of him, your comfort level goes up a little bit. But he's got really good stuff. He throws hard and he's got three really good pitches,' Johnson said.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ankiel singled with one out, and with two outs, Roger Bernadina, batting for Strasburg walked. Ian Desmond walked to load the bases, and Lombardozzi, who was starting because manager Davey Johnson wanted to rest Danny Espinosa, slapped a double to left, and Zimmerman followed with the two-run double.
Weiland pitched 5 2-3 innings, allowing six runs and 10 hits.
The Astros scored their final run in the eighth on a single by Buck and a triple by Johnson - his third hit of the game. They were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
``He's a guy that you've got to be aggressive (against). The first one or two fastballs for strikes, you've got to get ready to hit, because he's going to come after you and he's wants to get to his off-speed stuff,' Buck said of Strasburg.
After Strasburg left, Sean Burnett got two outs in the seventh, Ryan Mattheus allowed an earned run in the eighth, Tom Gorzelanny finished the eighth, and Henry Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his second save.
In the third, Desmond doubled to left with one out. Lombardozzi bunted, but Weiland threw the ball away, and Desmond scored on the error.
Wilson Ramos hit his first home run with two outs in the fourth.
NOTES: Strasburg singled in the fourth inning. He's now 2 for 31 as a major league hitter. ... Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang will throw a simulated game in Viera, Fla., on Wednesday, and if that goes well, he'll pitch in a minor league game. Wang has been on the disabled list with a left hamstring injury. ... TV evangelist Joel Osteen threw out the first pitch. He'll be conducting a service at Nationals Park on Apr. 28. ... The Astros have scored at least three runs in every game. ... Houston LHP Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 2.38 ERA) is scheduled to throw against Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 3.38 ERA) on Tuesday night.
The Associated Press News Service
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