Astros Hand Nats Second Tight Loss
Byline: Mark Zuckerman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
HOUSTON - There was a dominant performance from Roy Oswalt, though not dominant enough to keep Ryan Zimmerman in the ballpark. There was a surreal encounter between Paul Lo Duca and a group of fans seated behind the third-base dugout who started razzing the veteran catcher after he reinjured his right hand. And there were any number of unusual plays in a ballgame filled with unusual moments.
In the end, the Washington Nationals were done in again by late heroics from the Houston Astros and were left to contemplate a demoralizing 4-3 loss at Minute Maid Park.
Carlos Lee's line drive single off center fielder Lastings Milledge's glove in the ninth brought home Kaz Matsui with the winning run, the final blow that dealt the Nationals their second straight crushing loss in Houston.
Right-hander Joel Hanrahan, pitching his third inning of relief, put himself into a jam quickly in the ninth, walking Matsui on four straight balls and then allowing the speedster to steal the Astros' seventh base in two games.
Then came the heart of the Houston lineup. Though Hanrahan (0-2) struck out Miguel Tejada, he intentionally walked Lance Berkman and then was lifted in favor of fellow righthander Jesus Colome. Colome got ahead of Lee 0-2 but threw his next pitch in the dirt, allowing Matsui to advance to third.
With the outfield drawn in to try to prevent a game-winning sacrifice fly, Lee then laced Colome's offering to center field. Milledge made an attempt at the ball and watched as it careened off his glove, though it wouldn't have mattered whether he caught it. Matsui would have scored either way.
The loss was made even more sour for Washington after Lo Duca was forced to leave the game in the seventh inning upon aggravating his right hand injury.
Whether Lo Duca is forced back to the disabled list following this latest setback remains to be seen. The veteran catcher, though, appeared to be in agony after fouling off an 0-1 pitch and immediately dropping his bat.
Tended to briefly by assistant trainer Mike McGowan, Lo Duca soon was helped back to the dugout, where the scene took a surprising turn. …