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Astros Aim To Even Series With Nationals

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(Sports Network) - The Washington Nationals haven't won a series of three games or longer over the Houston Astros in over three years. They have an opportunity to change that this afternoon in the finale of a four-game set between the clubs at Nationals Park.

The Nationals lost three of four to the Astros in Houston from May 31-June 3 and dropped the first contest of this series on Monday before posting consecutive wins.

Danny Espinosa was the hero in last night's meeting, smacking a two-run homer in the seventh inning to lead Washington to a 4-3 victory. Mike Morse added a solo homer and Ian Desmond drove in a run for the Nationals.

Nats starter Jason Marquis went six-plus innings and gave up two runs before Tyler Clippard tossed a scoreless inning of relief to earn the win.

Washington will hope to have slugger Adam Dunn in the lineup when it tries to win its first series of at least three games over Houston since Aug. 21-23, 2007. Dunn, who has 35 homers and 96 RBI this year, left last night's game early after getting hit on the right elbow by a pitch. He is day-to-day, but could play tonight.

Angel Sanchez knocked in two runs and Jason Michaels ended with three hits, an RBI and a run scored for the Astros, who have dropped two straight since winning six of eight. Houston also lost for just the fourth time in its last 11 meetings with Washington.

Starter Wandy Rodriguez gave up three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 frames in the no-decision.

"We just happened to fall a run short," Astros outfielder Jason Bourgeois said. "Our pitching kept us in the game."

Nelson Figueroa will need a better outing tonight if he hopes to do the same for the Astros. The 36-year-old was charged with five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and allowed two homers and a pair of walks over just 4 1/3 innings of a loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. That setback snapped Houston's franchise record-tying 17-game run without a loss by a starter.

Figueroa fell to 3-2 with a 3.54 earned run average in 15 games (seven starts) since joining the Astros during the season.

The right-hander faced the Nationals twice in relief back in April while with Philadelphia, splitting a pair of decisions while allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings. He is 2-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 10 lifetime games (seven starts) against Washington.

The Nationals will give Ross Detwiler his first start since Aug. 5 in tonight's finale.

The 24-year-old went 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA over three starts in late July and early August, then didn't pitch again with Washington until early September due to a right hip strain. He has made three relief appearances this month, allowing just three hits over six combined scoreless innings.

The left-handed Detwiler, who has a 2.37 ERA on the season, faces the Astros for the first time.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.