Astros-Nationals Preview

The Houston Astros have played well over the past month, but so

has Washington starter John Lannan.

Lannan will try to continue his recent strong pitching when he

and the Nationals continue a four-game series against the visiting

Astros on Tuesday.

Washington (62-88) is struggling, especially its rotation.

Nationals starters have a 6.00 ERA over the last 12 games and have

pitched a total of 13 innings in the last four, but Lannan (8-7,

4.61 ERA) has been a bright spot.

The left-hander is 6-2 with a 3.02 ERA in his last eight starts,

and has a 2.30 ERA over his last four outings. He gave up two runs

and struck out six in six innings of a 4-2 win over Atlanta on

Wednesday.

However, Lannan has lost his last two starts against Houston

(73-77) after winning the first three of his career. He gave up

five runs – two earned – in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-1 defeat June 2 at

Minute Maid Park.

Lannan takes the mound after an ugly start Monday by Livan

Hernandez led to an 8-2 defeat, Washington’s 10th loss in 12 games.

Hernandez allowed home runs to Geoff Blum and Humberto Quintero

during a seven-run fifth inning for the Astros.

The game drew 10,999, the smallest crowd in Washington, D.C.,

since the Montreal Expos relocated before the 2005 season.

“It would be tough for me as a fan to come watch us when we’re

playing bad,” said first baseman Adam Dunn, who had one of three

errors for the Nationals.

Dunn also had a two-run single in the first to give the

Nationals the early lead, but is batting .154 over his last eight

games.

Dunn said before Monday’s loss that he hopes to remain with

Washington after his contract expires at the end of the season. He

leads the team with 35 homers and is five RBIs shy of reaching 100

for a third straight year.

Houston has won six of eight and is 20-8 since Aug. 22.

Carlos Lee, who went 2 for 5 with a run scored Monday, is

batting .394 with three homers during an eight-game hitting

streak.

Seeking their third straight win, the Astros will hand the ball

to J.A. Happ (6-2, 3.24), who pitched 4 1-3 innings against

Milwaukee on Wednesday, giving up five runs and allowing two homers

in an 8-6, 10-inning loss.

Happ, who had posted a 4-1 record and 2.17 ERA in his previous

seven starts, gave up three runs in the first inning.

“It was weird simply because J.A. Happ’s been so good for so

long and they were able to jump on him right away,” Houston manager

Brad Mills said.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.53 lifetime ERA in two starts

and six relief appearances against Washington.