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Astros take 3-game lead over Nats in wild-card race

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson called it the lowest point of his team's rapidly unraveling season.

Andy Pettitte won for the sixth time in eight starts and the Houston Astros beat the Nationals 6-3 on Thursday night.

"We haven't been to this low of a point before," Robinson said. "We just keep going and going and it doesn't seem like we're capable of stopping it and turning it around."

Washington fell three games behind the Astros in the NL wild-card race.

The Nationals had hoped their series with the Astros -- the start of a 13-game road swing -- would help turn around a disatrous second half.

But the Nationals instead lost their fifth game in their last six outings, again struggled to find offense and suffered through another aimless outing from Ryan Drese (3-6), who lost fifth consecutive start.

Pettitte (10-8) struck out five in eight innings and allowed four hits, his last a two-run homer to Preston Wilson in the seventh.

Since losing to Baltimore on June 14, Pettitte is 7-1 and has allowed 10 earned runs. The left-hander has lasted at least seven innings in his last six starts.

"Whenever I get in trouble I feel like I'm staying within myself a lot better and making ptiches instead of trying to power guys," Pettitte said. "But mechanically I feel good, and I think that's why my location has been so good."

Brad Ausmus had a three-run double in the sixth that extended Houston lead to 6-0. It was another timely hit for the catcher, who has dramatically improved his swing after batting just .214 through June.

Ausmus is been batting .302 since July, which he credits to hitting coach Gary Gaetti moving his hands lower and farther back on the bat.

"I've kind of stuck with that and it's felt a lot better," Ausmus said. "It's certainly the most important difference."

Drese, making his second return to Texas since the Rangers waived the opening day starter in June, allowed six runs on nine hits.

Drese left in the sixth after Pettitte singled, one batter after Ausmus doubled to right field with the bases loaded.

"He's just not consistent," Robinson said of his embattled pitcher. "You don't know what you're going to get from him from hitter to hitter or from pitch to pitch."

Lance Berkman also doubled and drove in two runs for the Astros, who have won three of four and improved to a major league-best 38-16 at home.

Jose Guillen, making his first start in five games after sitting out with a sore left shoulder, hit his 20th homer in the ninth for Washington.

Washington is 3-10 on the road since the All-Star break and still has 10 games remaining on its 13-game trip. The Nationals are 7-19 overall since July 14.

"We can't find ourselves," Guillen said. "It's pretty ugly."

Notes

  • Astros rookie Willy Taveras had his major league-leading 58th infield hit. He also extended his hitting streak to eight games.
  • The Nationals are 1-6 against left-handers since July.
  • Pettitte's single was his fourth hit of the season, tying a single-season career high.
  • Rockets guard Tracy McGrady attended the game.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Andy Pettitte allows two runs and four hits over eight innings for his sixth win in eight starts.  (AP)
Andy Pettitte allows two runs and four hits over eight innings for his sixth win in eight starts. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

A. Pettitte
IP 8.0
H 4
ER 2
BB 2
K 5
Washington

P. Wilson
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
 

Related Video

Washington Nationals
Jamey Carroll, SS3000101 .237
Jose Vidro, 2B4010001 .267
Brad Wilkerson, CF4000022 .254
Jose Guillen, RF4111001 .295
Vinny Castilla, 3B4110010 .245
Nick Johnson, 1B4000001 .310
Preston Wilson, LF4112030 .251
Gary Bennett, C2010100 .237
Ryan Drese, P1000011 .067
    Luis Ayala, P0000000 .333
   a- Tony Blanco, PH1000000 .229
    Gary Majewski, P0000000 .000
Totals31353277 
a-grounded out for Ayala in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jose Vidro (16, Pettitte), Vinny Castilla (27, Pettitte)
HR - Jose Guillen (20, Wheeler), Preston Wilson (19, Pettitte)
SH - Ryan Drese (4)
RBI - Jose Guillen (59), Preston Wilson 2 (58)
2-OUT RBI - Preston Wilson 2 (23)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jose Guillen 1
DP - Carroll-Vidro-N. Johnson
E - Vinny Castilla (7, )
Washington Nationals
Ryan Drese (L,7-12) 5.1965320 5.67
Luis Ayala 1.2000100 2.63
Gary Majewski 1200020 3.05
HBP - Taveras (by Luis Ayala)
Pitches-Strikes - Ryan Drese 25-14, Gary Majewski 18-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ryan Drese 9-4, Luis Ayala 2-3, Gary Majewski 1-0
Batters Faced - Ryan Drese 27, Luis Ayala 7, Gary Majewski 5
Houston Astros
Willy Taveras, CF4110001 .298
Craig Biggio, 2B4220113 .275
    Dan Wheeler, P0000000 .000
Lance Berkman, 1B5022015 .296
Morgan Ensberg, 3B3110101 .296
Jason Lane, RF3021112 .261
Eric Bruntlett, SS4100001 .203
Chris Burke, LF3100101 .232
Brad Ausmus, C4023000 .247
Andy Pettitte, P3010000 .103
   a- Jose Vizcaino, PH-2B1000011 .238
Totals3461164415 
a-struck out for Pettitte in the 8th
Batting
2B - Lance Berkman (23, Drese), Morgan Ensberg (25, Drese), Brad Ausmus (10, Drese)
RBI - Lance Berkman 2 (49), Jason Lane (51), Brad Ausmus 3 (31)
Team LOB - 9
Houston Astros
Andy Pettitte (W,10-8) 8422251 2.62
Dan Wheeler 1111021 1.73
Pitches-Strikes - Andy Pettitte 53-36, Dan Wheeler 12-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Andy Pettitte 11-8, Dan Wheeler 1-0
Batters Faced - Andy Pettitte 30, Dan Wheeler 4
Game Information
Attendance - 35036
Game Time - 2:39
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Wally Bell, First Base - Lance Barksdale, Second Base - Jim Reynolds, Third Base - John Hirschbeck