The Washington Nationals survived blowing a 4-1 lead to the Houston Astros, scoring one run in the top of the 11th inning to secure a 5-4 win Monday night. Roger Bernadina scored the winning run when Kurt Suzuki's bunt was thrown away by first baseman Steve Pearce. A good throw might have had Bernadina at the plate, but Brian Bogusevic's throw went to the backstop, enabling Bernadina to slide in safely.
On offense, the Nats mounted back-to-back rallies in the fourth and fifth that looked like enough to clinch the series opener. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse led off the fourth with singles, setting up Adam LaRoche for an RBI single to right that evened things at 1-1. With nobody out that threat would quickly flame out with Morse and LaRoche stranded.
The Nationals would put together a rally one inning later, however, with many of the same suspects doing the damage. Ryan Zimmerman knocked in Edwin Jackson and Danny Espinosa with a bases-loaded single to left for the 3-1 lead. Morse then stepped in and took a 2-2 offering up the middle to score Bryce Harper for the three-run lead. The Nationals offense would go quiet after that. They would not get a hit after the sixth inning Roger Bernadina bounced one through the right side in the top of the 11th.
Jackson was cruising through the first five innings. He had his sinker working and diving out of the zone, leading to eight strikeouts. He gave up an absolute bomb to Marwin Gonzalez in the first but settled in from there. At the pace he was working and the ease with which he was moving through the Astros lineup, it looked like he would at least pitch into the seventh. But he got a little wild in the bottom of the sixth, and with his pitch count rising, Davey Johnson to made a call to the bullpen.
Tom Gorzelanny came on with one out in the sixth and could not get Jackson out of the jam. He preserved the lead, however, by allowing two runs before getting J.D. Martinez to foul out to the catcher to end the inning.
With the lead now cut to one, things got real dicey in the bottom of the eighth. Jose Altuve, who created problems all night with his bat and speed, led things off with a single. He was erased on a fielder's choice by Gonzalez, but a wild pitch by Sean Burnett put Gonzalez on second as the tying run. Johnson made the call for Drew Storen with two outs, looking to build off his first save of the season on Sunday. Storen struggled to find the zone, however, walking back-to-back batters to load the bases and then falling behind 3-0 to Martinez. Storen would somehow escape, with Martinez swinging at a 3-1 offering and driving it well to center but right at Bernadina.
While the Astros would miss the opportunity to tie it in the eighth, they would capitalize one inning later against Tyler Clippard. With one out, Clippard hit Carlos Corporan and then backed that up by walking Brian Bogusevic. Altuve came through with a game-tying double deep of the left field wall to score pinch runner Lucas Harrell. It was Clippard's fourth blown save of the year and the Nats were lucky Bogusevic was unable to come around on the play to end it right there.