Nationals 7, Astros 6

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WASHINGTON – Ryan Langerhans hit a three-run homer, Jason Bergmann won for the first time in more than two months, and the Washington Nationals held on to edge the Houston Astros 7-6.

Bergmann (2-5) was charged with four runs and six hits over six-plus innings, earning his first victory since May 14 when he took a no-hitter into the eighth against Atlanta. After that start, though, the right-hander went on the disabled list and has struggled since his return.

He gave up solo homers to Mike Lamb in the second inning and Luke Scott in the fifth. But thanks to a rare offensive outburst by the Nationals, Bergmann took a 7-2 lead into the seventh.

That’s when he gave up consecutive singles to Lamb and Scott, then departed in favor of Ray King. But the lefty threw only two pitches, the second of which Eric Munson hit for an RBI ground-rule double, part of a four-run rally that also included run-scoring hits by Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee off Saul Rivera.

Their lead down to one run, the Nationals held on, thanks to a perfect eighth from Jon Rauch and a scoreless ninth from closer Chad Cordero, who earned his 17th save. The Astros put the potential tying run on third with two outs on a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and a wild pitch, but Hunter Pence grounded out to end the game.

Washington did all of its scoring against Jason Jennings (1-6), who lost his fifth consecutive start – the worst stretch of the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year’s career.

With heavy rain falling in the first inning, Jennings walked Zimmerman and Dmitri Young. That set up Ryan Church’s RBI double just inside the right-field foul line, followed by Austin Kearns’ two-run double just inside the third-base bag.

Belliard’s RBI double in the second made it 4-1 and extended his hitting streak to 11 games, matching the longest for any Nationals player in 2007.

After Jennings walked Young and Kearns in the fifth, Langerhans hit a first-pitch homer to make it 7-2. It was Langerhans’ fifth of the season.

When Bergmann dumped a single to shallow center with two outs in the fifth, it meant every player in Washington’s starting lineup had at least one hit or one run scored.

Jennings went five innings, giving up seven hits and four walks.

Notes: Young’s single in the third extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He entered the day leading the NL with a .341 batting average. … Astros 2B Craig Biggio was out of the starting lineup for a second day in a row. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly as a pinch hitter in the seventh. … Nationals C Brian Schneider sat out with a bruised right arm after getting hit by a pitch Tuesday.

AP-ES-07-18-07 1643EDT

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