WASHINGTON -- If the Washington Nationals do wind up trading Dmitri Young, he'll take a big chunk of their offense with him.
Young followed No. 3 hitter Ryan Zimmerman's bunt single with a go-ahead, three-run homer Monday night, leading Washington to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros, who have lost seven consecutive road games.
"That's the situation that everybody loves to be in," Young said. "Not every time do you come through, but it's always good when you come through."
Washington's lone All-Star last week, he lifted his batting average to a team-best .339 and his RBI total to a team-leading 52. His ninth homer of the season came on a 1-0 curveball from Woody Williams with one out in the sixth inning.
"The hitting is not surprising. This guy's got the track record. He's hit all his life," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "It's just a great story -- a guy having all those problems, no one was willing to give him a chance."
Well, the Nationals did, even though in 2006 alone, Young faced an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce and hospitalization for diabetes -- and was cut by Detroit with less than a month left in the regular season.
Young signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Nationals in February and opened spring training in their minor league camp. But with Nick Johnson recovering from a broken leg, Young earned the starting job at first base -- and he's thrived.
"Once you know how to do it," Zimmerman said, "you can't forget."
Young's in his 12th big league season, Zimmerman's in his second, and the kid came up with what the veteran called a "smart, smart move" in the sixth inning. After Ronnie Belliard singled, Zimmerman dropped a bunt down the third-base line and reached easily.
"Not too many times is a 3-hole hitter going to lay down a bunt," said Williams (4-11). "That's a good play on his part."
Acta's take was a little different.
"Right now, it looks good," he said. "I'm not a big fan of that."
Still, Young followed with the 22nd homer Williams has allowed this season, the most in the NL.
In the 50 games since May 17, Young is hitting .404, the best average in the majors over that span. He entered Monday with a .336 average, second in the NL.
"I read just recently that he changed his life around. That's good for him," said Astros manager Phil Garner, who managed Young in Detroit. "I'd just as soon he hit his home runs against someone else, though."
Young's success is why a rebuilding Washington, 38-54 after Monday's victory, might be able to get good prospects for him ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
"We're going to enjoy it while he's here," Washington catcher Brian Schneider said.
Young's big hit put Washington ahead 4-2 and made a winner of reliever Saul Rivera (4-2), who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and stranded two inherited runners. Jon Rauch allowed Carlos Lee's 17th homer before getting out of the eighth, and closer Chad Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save.
Rivera replaced Mike Bacsik, who gave up two runs -- one earned -- and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings.
"Our bullpen, once again -- it picks us up every time," Bacsik said.
Lee's RBI single to right in the sixth snapped an 0-for-9 drought. ... Astros RHP Chad Qualls lost his appeal of a three-game suspension and $3,000 fine for throwing a baseball into the stands during a game last month. Qualls, who got one out in relief Monday, will begin serving the suspension Tuesday.