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Astros Try To Win One Series (Just One Series!) When The Meet Washington

(Sports Network) - Jordan Lyles has had 10 days to think about his most recent outing, one that left him still searching for his first victory in the major leagues.

The 20-year-old Astros hurler tries to open his second half of the season with that elusive win tonight when Houston begins a three-game series with the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park.

A 2008 draft pick, Lyles joined Houston's starting rotation on May 31 and has pitched to a 4.60 earned run average over eight starts. He has posted an 0-4 record in that time and did not end the first half on a strong note after taking a loss in Florida on July 8.

The right-hander gave up a career high-tying five runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings, striking out three while failing to hold an early lead.

"It was not a good outing. It didn't go as planned," said Lyles, who has never faced Washington. "I didn't start good, and I didn't finish good."

Houston has also struggled since the All-Star break, dropping two of three to Pittsburgh. The Astros forced extra innings on Chris Johnson's two-out RBI double in the eighth inning off Pirates All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, but several miscues in the 11th inning led to a 7-5 defeat.

Humberto Quintero's passed ball in the frame allowed the Pirates to score the go-ahead run and Aneury Rodriguez would later commit a throwing error that allowed Pittsburgh to plate its third run of the frame. Quintero did hit a two-out homer in the bottom of the frame, but Jason Michaels filed out to end the contest.

Jeff Keppinger had a solid game with three hits, three runs scored and a pair of RBI for the Astros, who have lost 11 of 13 games in July and 16 of their last 19 overall.

"Keppy has continued to swing the bat well, Hunter [Pence] had some knocks, and CJ [Chris Johnson] with a big one to tie the game and get us to extra innings ad give us a chance to win," said Astros manager Brad Mills, who was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes.

Washington comes to town having also lost two of three to open the second half, losing 9-8, at Atlanta in the rubber match of a three-game set on Sunday.

Nationals starter Tom Gorzelanny was forced out of the game in the third inning with a twisted right ankle suffered when he collided with Braves catcher Brian McCann while scoring a run. Washington's taxed bullpen was beat up for seven runs over 6 2/3 innings, giving up a game-tying homer in the eighth inning before Freddie Freeman's game-winning RBI single with two outs in the ninth.

"The Braves are a good team. When you're playing a team like that they keep pushing and don't give up," said Washington's Danny Espinosa, who finished a double shy of the cycle and drove in three runs. "I guess they just continued to play. It's just how the game goes sometimes I guess."

Espinosa's 16th homer of the season leads all second baseman in the majors, while Roger Bernadina had a pair of hits and scored three runs.

While Gorzelanny is day-to-day, the Nationals are expected to activate utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. from the disabled list in time for tonight's game. Hairston has been out since the start of July due to a fractured right wrist.

Taking the hill for the Nationals tonight is Jason Marquis, who lost back-to- back starts before the break and hasn't won since June 10.

The right-hander was drilled for six earned runs over just 1 1/3 innings versus the Pirates on July 3, then took a tough 2-1 setback to the Rockies on July 9 after getting charged with two runs on five hits and four walks over six frames.

Marquis, 32, fell to 7-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 18 starts this season and will face the Astros for the 30th time in his career this evening. The veteran is 9-8 with a 5.50 ERA in that span, which includes 24 starts.

The Nationals and Astros split eight meetings last year, but Houston did win three of four at home.

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