WASHINGTON -- There was good news all around Wednesday night at Nationals Park, the best of which came in the Nationals' 6-5 comeback victory against the Astros that completed a two-game sweep. The win extended their National League East division lead to a game and a half as the Braves were pounded by the Phillies, 10-5, earlier in the day.
The Nationals were behind, 5-3, before they took the lead in the seventh inning. Right-hander Josh Zeid was on the mound when Anthony Rendon swung at the first pitch and hit a home run over the left-center-field fence.
"Just a fastball trying to get ahead," Zeid said. "He's been hot lately, been hot against us all season. Right pitch called, poor pitch placement."
Zeid's problems continued on the mound. After walking Jayson Werth, Zeid was taken out of the game in favor of left-hander Darin Downs, who allowed a single to Adam LaRoche to put runners on first and third.
Right-hander Kyle Farnsworth was on the mound when Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force play, but Werth scored to tie the game at 5. Zimmerman would later score on a sacrifice fly by Nate McLouth to make it a one-run game in favor of the Nationals.
"We got it done offensively to get the win. Most importantly, we carry this series into the next," Werth said. "Standings for me -- until you are 10 games up going into September -- it really doesn't matter. Anything can happen. With that said, we have been playing good ball. We have some momentum. We can use that momentum, kind of build on it."
It was a game that saw left-hander Gio Gonzalez make his first appearance since May 17 against the Mets. Gonzalez had missed more than a month of action because of shoulder inflammation. Gonzalez got off to a good start and had a 2-0 lead after three innings.
However, Gonzalez had problems in the fourth inning, and the Astros scored four runs to take a two-run lead. Matt Dominguez highlighted the scoring with a two-run single. Gonzalez lasted five innings and allowed the four runs on five hits.
Gonzalez said that he was rusty, but hopes to have a better game in his next start.
"I felt like it was not one of my strongest outings, but it was a step in the right direction," Gonzalez said. "I'm off the DL is a great sign. The first few innings, I was trying to get the arm on top. In the fourth inning, I got ahead of the hitters, but I couldn't put them away. … It's something that I learn from, adjust the cobwebs and get back at it. It's definitely a work in progress."
Washington's offense was dragging of late, but it came to life in the sixth inning. Zeid was on the mound when the Nationals made it close. Danny Espinosa scored on a double by Denard Span. But the Astros would add to their lead as Robbie Grossman scored on a wild pitch by left-hander Ross Detwiler.
But the Nationals won the game and now play an important four-game series against the Braves starting Thursday night. Manager Matt Williams is a guy that doesn't like to look ahead, but he likes the fact that the Nationals have widened their lead in the NL East.
"I think we feel good with where we are at," Williams said. "We really face a difficult team in the next four games. I think it was really important to win this one tonight. We need to look into tomorrow and be prepared for that. Beyond that, we can't look ahead. You can't look around the corner. When we open the door tomorrow, what's tomorrow? We'll deal with that. But the days following that will deal with themselves. We need to come ready to play tomorrow."
Said Werth about the Braves, "This is the best team in the division over the last year. If we want to win our division, it goes through them. All these games are meaningful. We know what's at stake and what they mean even in the middle of June."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.