HOUSTON (AP) – Morgan Ensberg and Orlando Palmeiro doubled with the bases loaded, and the Houston Astros held off the Washington Nationals 7-6 Wednesday night.

Brad Lidge got the save despite a shaky ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Jose Guillen with runners at the corners to end it. Houston moved two games ahead of Washington in the NL wild-card race.

Craig Biggio also had a run-scoring double and four hits for the Astros, who resumed their home dominance after dropping the series opener Tuesday. The Astros are 37-16 at Minute Maid Park, where they have not lost consecutive games since June 4 and will play their next 11.

Jose Vidro and pitcher Livan Hernandez homered for the Nationals, who have not strung together back-to-back wins on the road since July 3. They are 3-9 away from Washington since the All-Star break and are two games into an 11-game road swing, their longest of the season.

Washington’s first two batters reached in the ninth against Lidge, but Vidro lined into a double play when Lance Berkman made a diving catch at first base and Brandon Watson was caught off the bag.

After Nick Johnson’s RBI double and Brad Wilkerson’s run-scoring single, Lidge fanned Guillen for his 28th save in 31 chances.

Wandy Rodriguez (7-5) lasted five innings and earned the win despite struggling against Hernandez (13-5). The Nationals’ starter also had an RBI double and a single.

But Hernandez’s hitting was not enough to make up for dreadful innings in the first and sixth. Palmeiro cleared the bases in the first with a three-run double that dropped deep down the right-field line, capping a four-run inning.

With two outs in the sixth, Hernandez intentionally walked Berkman to load the bases. But the strategy backfired when Ensberg hit a two-run double to center.

Hernandez is 1-3 in his last seven starts. He allowed seven runs – five earned – and 10 hits, the third consecutive start that he’s allowed 10 or more hits.

Biggio snapped an 0-for-12 slump with a season-high four hits. Willy Taveras went 3-for-4 and scored twice, including the go-ahead run on Biggio’s double in the fourth.

Vidro’s homer in the first was his seventh.

Notes: The Nationals had been 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position before Hernandez’s double to score Preston Wilson. … Hernandez entered 4-0 in four career starts at Minute Maid Park. … Taveras is 5-for-8 in the series. His 40 multihit games are the most by an Astros rookie since Jeff Bagwell had 41 in 1991.

AP-ES-08-10-05 2326EDT


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