Astros-Nationals Preview

Facing the Houston Astros was enough to get the Washington Nationals untracked.

They’re hoping Gio Gonzalez’s return can start to get them rolling.

Gonzalez looks to begin putting a shoulder injury behind him Wednesday night by helping the Nationals continue their dominance of the Astros.

Washington (36-33), which is atop the NL East by one-half game over Atlanta and Miami, ended a season high-tying four-game slide with Tuesday’s 6-5 win over Houston to open this two-game set in the nation’s capital. The victory included four doubles among their nine hits after the Nationals had only one of their 21 hits go for extra bases over the previous four games, batting .168 while scoring four runs.

They’ve won 11 of 12 meetings with the Astros (32-40), including seven straight for their longest winning streak in the all-time series.

Gonzalez (3-4, 4.62 ERA) looks to continue that success, as he returns to the mound for the first time since going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation May 18.

The left-hander allowed one run and two hits with seven strikeouts in four innings in the second of his two rehab starts with Class-A Potomac on Thursday.

"He threw a lot of breaking balls, working on his breaking-ball command," Nationals manager Matt Williams told the team’s official website. "Velocity was good, health was good, so he should be good to go."

Gonzalez had a 7.98 ERA in losing his last three starts before going on the DL and hasn’t earned a win in five since beating St. Louis on April 18. One of those outings came at Houston on April 29, when he allowed three runs in six innings and struck out nine while not getting a decision in a 4-3 win.

He had won his other two starts against the Astros by allowing three runs and fanning 15 in 16 innings.

"I’m ready to go," Gonzalez said. "I’m ready to slot myself back in there. Arm feels great, and I feel like I’m ready to go up there and do my part as a starting pitcher."

Anthony Rendon is 13 for 30 with three homers, nine RBIs and as many runs while helping Washington win six of seven games at home. The third baseman had two doubles in the series opener, driving in three runs.

He’s 7 for 14 with four doubles, one homer and six RBIs in three career meetings with Houston.

The Astros are batting .214 while averaging 2.4 runs over their last seven games against Washington, and that may not bode well for Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.98).

The right-hander has a 2.55 ERA in five road starts, but he’s just 1-2 since he’s been backed by two or fewer runs in four of those outings.

Feldman, though, didn’t help himself in his most recent road start June 7, getting pulled with two outs in the second after giving up three unearned runs, walking two batters and hitting another in an 8-0 defeat at Minnesota.

Feldman bounced back at home Thursday, yielding three runs – two earned – with six strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win in 10 over Arizona.

His only career start against the Nationals ended in a 2-1 win with the Chicago Cubs, but he didn’t get a decision despite allowing one run while fanning six in six innings.