WASHINGTON (AP) – Facing Roger Clemens was probably the last thing the slumping Washington Nationals needed. For one night, they looked as close to their previous incarnation – the Expos – as they have all season.

Clemens matched his season high with 10 strikeouts over six shutout innings, and Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane and Mike Lamb each drove in three runs to lead Houston past Washington 14-1 Friday night, the Nationals’ 12th loss in 16 games.

And the Nationals’ normally wildly supportive crowd turned on their new team a bit, booing as the runs piled up in the late going, and cheering sarcastically when the home club recorded an out.

Houston, meanwhile, collected season highs for runs and hits (19) and stretched its winning streak to a season-best six games.

Lane’s career-high four hits included two doubles, Ensberg hit his 26th homer – a two-run shot in the first – plus an RBI single, and Lamb added a three-run homer as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Willy Taveras had four singles.

Washington entered the day tied with Atlanta for first place in the NL East; the Braves were playing a late game at the Diamondbacks. The Nationals led by 51/2 games on July 3, but their lead has vanished right along with their offense.

Washington has scored 30 runs in its last 11 games, a 2.7 average. So it seemed almost unfair that they had to take on a seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

Wiping sweat off his brow with his glove on a humid, 87-degree night, Clemens (8-4) lowered his majors-best ERA to 1.40. Throwing in the low 90s all game, he gave up just three hits, walked three and hit a batter.

The low point for Washington’s offense might have come after Clemens left, though. Cristian Guzman led off the seventh with a triple against reliever Chad Qualls – then was stranded by three straight weak groundouts, drawing jeers.

Clemens gave up a broken-bat single to Jose Guillen in the first, a single to Ryan Church in the fourth, and double to Guillen in the sixth.

Nationals starter Ryan Drese (3-3) gave up six runs – five earned – on nine hits over 6 1-3 innings. He was followed by Sun-woo Kim, who allowed eight runs on 10 hits.

No Washington runner, meanwhile, made it as far as third against Clemens. When the hosts did put someone on second, he retired all seven Nationals who stepped to the plate with a runner in scoring position – five by strikeout.

At first, the locals were thrilled to see Clemens, even if he was pitching in the road uniform. There was a polite smattering of applause for Drese when his name was announced over the PA system, a greeting that paled in comparison to the roar that accompanied Clemens’ introduction.

He didn’t disappoint, earning his 336th career victory and getting double-digit strikeouts for the 110th time.

Preston Wilson struck out leading off the second, looking at a 93 mph pitch from Clemens. The next batter, Brad Wilkerson, watched a 91 mph two-seam fastball go by on an 0-2 count.

Wilson finished 0-for-4 with four Ks, three against Clemens.

There were other problems for Washington, which gave up an unearned run for the second straight night, this time after second baseman Jose Vidro bobbled a grounder. The Nationals also seemed to botch their reaction to a delayed double steal in the sixth, with Adam Everett coming home on the play.

Also among the malfunctions: All but one of the electronic scoreboards around RFK Stadium went dark in the bottom of the third inning. The working one carried the message: “Thank you for your support.”

Notes: Ensberg’s homer set a franchise record for most in a season by a third baseman and established his career high. … Clemens’ ERA in nine road starts is 0.31. … Nationals 1B Nick Johnson (bruised right heel) will start a rehab assignment Saturday at Triple-A New Orleans.

AP-ES-07-22-05 2216EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.