WASHINGTON (AP) – Eric Bruntlett hit a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the 14th inning Sunday to give the Houston Astros a 4-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Bruntlett fouled off three straight pitches before pulling Hector Carrasco’s 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence and into the Nationals bullpen to give the Astros their seventh win in eight games.

Russ Springer (3-3) pitched two innings for the victory, and Brad Lidge pitched the bottom of the 14th for his 23rd save. The Astros won three of four in the series.

The Nationals have lost four of five and 13 of 18. They wasted a stellar starting performance by John Patterson, whose effort was matched by Astros rookie starter Wandy Rodriguez.

Adam Everett started the winning rally with a single to center off Carrasco (3-3). Everett advanced on a wild pitch, then Jose Vizcaino walked. Brad Ausmus flew out to right, then pinch-hitter – and Saturday’s starting pitcher – Brandon Backe hit a long fly to right that advanced Everett to third, and Vizcaino stole second.

Bruntlett, who had entered the game in the 10th inning, connected for his second homer of the year and his sixth, seventh and eighth RBIs.

The Nationals not only lost, but they also had a scare. Jose Guillen was hit on the right wrist with an 0-1 pitch with one out in the ninth inning and was taken to a hospital for X-rays, but the results were negative. He is listed as day-to-day with a bruise.

Most of the game was a brilliant pitchers’ duel between Patterson and Rodriguez, but they fought to a 1-1 draw. Patterson struck out a career-high 10, allowed six hits and walked none in eight innings, while Rodriguez allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one over a career-high seven-plus innings in his 11th career start.

It was the best performance of Rodriguez’s young career, while Patterson remains the master of the no-decision – with just a 4-2 record over 18 starts despite a 2.58 ERA. Patterson threw 77 strikes and just 24 balls, and his outing followed an eight-inning shutout performance against Colorado on Tuesday. He has allowed two runs or fewer in seven straight starts.

During one stretch, Rodriguez and Patterson combined to retire 13 straight batters and 22 of 24 – and the two batters who got on base did so with bloop hits. Later, the two sent down 15 batters in a row before Rodriguez issued the game’s first walk on a 3-2 pitch to Marlon Byrd to start the eighth.

That was Rodriguez’s 87th and last pitch. Manager Phil Garner took him out and brought in Chad Qualls, who worked out of a no-out, first-and-third jam after first baseman Mike Lamb’s throwing error on a sacrifice bunt.

The Nationals scored in the fifth when Byrd doubled off the center-field wall and scored on Gary Bennett’s opposite-field single.

The Astros responded immediately with a run in the sixth. Lance Berkman doubled off the left-field wall – a ball that Byrd might have caught had he not misjudged the ball’s slice – then moved to third on Morgan Ensberg’s flyout to center and scored on Lamb’s flyout to right.

Notes: Washington manager Frank Robinson was out of outfielders when Guillen was hurt, so he used pitcher Ryan Drese as a pinch-runner. He then moved Brad Wilkerson from first base to right field, moved Carlos Baerga from third to first and inserted Vinny Castilla at third, even though Castilla wasn’t supposed to return until Tuesday because of a sore knee. … Everett stole his career-high 14th base in the second inning. He had 13 last year. … The Astros finished 7-4 on their road trip, having improved dramatically since going 2-21 on the road to start the season. … The Nationals have a day off Monday before opening a key three-game series on the road against NL East rival Atlanta.

AP-ES-07-24-05 1732EDT


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