HOUSTON -- Brandon Watson acknowledged he never hit many homers before.
Neither had the Washington Nationals.
Watson, making his major-league debut, homered along with three of his teammates and the Nationals started a pivotal road trip with a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
"It's hard to stay calm in your first major-league game," said Watson, brought up by the Nationals from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday. "That's a tough thing to do, but you've got to be thrown into the fire sometime."
More importantly, the Nationals are now just one game behind the Astros in the NL wild-card race.
Washington began its 13-game road trip with a major league-worst .252 batting average and 77 home runs. But the Nationals homered four times Tuesday for the first time this season to win their first one-run decision since July 8.
Watson, who started in left field, was brought up to spark the Nationals' offense. He is the 48th player the Nationals have used on their roster this season, tops in the majors.
The rookie's first hit was a ground-rule double in the third that dropped inside the right-field line and bounced into the stands. He later scored on Castilla's groundout.
Watson hit a two-out, solo homer his next at-bat in the fourth for a 5-1 Washington lead. The opposite-field drive barely cleared the left-field wall.
"That was a beautiful debut," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "That kid will be all right."
Morgan Ensberg homered twice for the Astros.
Three of the Nationals' homers came off Astros starter Ezequiel Astacio (2-5), who allowed five runs and six hits in four innings.
"In a game like this you certainly want to win, because the guy behind you in the standings is staring at you across the field," Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said.
Watson's homer came two batters after Schneider hit his eighth of the season. Schneider, who also singled, showed no signs of the ailing right shoulder that kept him out of the lineup the previous four games.
Patterson lasted until the sixth, when the Astros got two runs thanks to some shaky Nationals defense.
Patterson left with the bases loaded after shortstop Cristian Guzman's underhand toss to second baseman Jose Vidro didn't beat a sliding Eric Bruntlett. Robinson came out and protested the call, then replaced Patterson with Luis Ayala.
The Astros put runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth, but Cordero came in and got Biggio to foul out to left.
"We had opportunities, that's what hurts," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I just felt like this was going to be a game we were going to win."
The win snapped a three-game slide for the Nationals, who have lost 17 of their 24 games since July 14.
Wilkerson and Castilla both hit their eighth homers of the season. Wilkerson connected in the second and Castilla in the fifth.
|Third baseman Vinny Castilla is one of three Nationals to go yard vs. the Astros. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Brandon Watson, LF||5||2||2||1||0||0||1||.400|
|Jose Vidro, 2B||4||0||1||1||0||0||0||.263|
|Nick Johnson, 1B||2||0||0||0||3||0||0||.316|
|Vinny Castilla, 3B||5||1||1||2||0||1||2||.242|
|Brad Wilkerson, CF||2||1||1||1||2||0||0||.258|
|Preston Wilson, RF||4||0||0||0||0||3||4||.252|
|Brian Schneider, C||3||1||2||1||1||0||0||.288|
|Cristian Guzman, SS||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.188|
|John Patterson, P||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||.054|
|Luis Ayala, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.333|
|Mike Stanton, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Tony Blanco, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.234|
|Gary Majewski, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Chad Cordero, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-struck out for Stanton in the 8th|
|2B - Brandon Watson (1, Astacio)|
|HR - Brandon Watson (1, Astacio), Vinny Castilla (8, Harville), Brad Wilkerson (8, Astacio), Brian Schneider (8, Astacio)|
|SF - Jose Vidro (3)|
|SH - John Patterson (6)|
|RBI - Brandon Watson (1), Jose Vidro (25), Vinny Castilla 2 (50), Brad Wilkerson (43), Brian Schneider (31)|
|2-OUT RBI - Brandon Watson (1)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Stanton-Guzman-N. Johnson, Vidro-Guzman-N. Johnson|
|E - Cristian Guzman (11, Wild throw)|
|John Patterson (W,6-3)||5.2||7||5||3||4||2||2||2.52|
|Luis Ayala (H,21)||0.1||1||0||0||0||0||0||2.70|
|Mike Stanton (H,7)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||5.31|
|Gary Majewski (H,19)||0.2||1||0||0||1||1||0||3.11|
|Chad Cordero (S,37)||1.1||0||0||0||1||1||0||1.07|
|IBB - Ausmus by John Patterson|
|WP - John Patterson 2 (8)|
|Pitches-Strikes - John Patterson 96-56, Luis Ayala 9-6, Mike Stanton 6-4, Gary Majewski 25-14, Chad Cordero 20-14|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Patterson 4-11, Luis Ayala 1-1, Mike Stanton 1-1, Chad Cordero 1-1|
|Batters Faced - John Patterson 28, Luis Ayala 3, Mike Stanton 2, Gary Majewski 4, Chad Cordero 4|
|Willy Taveras, CF||4||1||2||0||1||1||0||.294|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||5||0||0||0||0||0||3||.266|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Lance Berkman, LF||4||0||1||0||1||0||3||.298|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||4||2||3||3||1||1||1||.294|
|Mike Lamb, 1B||5||0||0||0||0||0||4||.217|
|Orlando Palmeiro, RF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.327|
|Adam Everett, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.242|
|Brad Ausmus, C||2||1||1||0||2||1||0||.243|
|Ezequiel Astacio, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.250|
|a- Chris Burke, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.236|
|Chad Harville, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Eric Bruntlett, PH||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.215|
|Chad Qualls, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Jason Lane, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.257|
|Mike Gallo, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jose Vizcaino, 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.242|
|a-popped out for Astacio in the 4th|
|b-walked for Harville in the 6th|
|c-tripled for Qualls in the 8th|
|2B - Lance Berkman (22, Patterson)|
|3B - Jason Lane (3, Majewski)|
|HR - Morgan Ensberg 2 (31, Patterson, Patterson)|
|RBI - Morgan Ensberg 3 (85)|
|2-OUT RBI - Morgan Ensberg 2 (37)|
|SB - Orlando Palmeiro (3, 2nd base off Patterson/Schneider)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Everett-Lamb|
|Ezequiel Astacio (L,2-5)||4||6||5||5||2||2||3||6.75|
|IBB - Wilkerson by Chad Qualls|
|Pitches-Strikes - Ezequiel Astacio 71-45, Chad Harville 35-20, Chad Qualls 25-13, Mike Gallo 11-4, Brad Lidge 5-4|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ezequiel Astacio 4-6, Chad Harville 4-0, Chad Qualls 3-0, Mike Gallo 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Ezequiel Astacio 20, Chad Harville 8, Chad Qualls 8, Mike Gallo 3, Brad Lidge 1|
|Attendance - 34255|
|Game Time - 3:08|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Jim Reynolds, First Base - John Hirschbeck, Second Base - Wally Bell, Third Base - Lance Barksdale|