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Nats batter Astros’ hurler

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HOUSTON — Whether it's in Washington or Houston, the Nationals love when they see Jason Jennings on the mound.

The Nationals pounded the Astros' starter for the second time this season last night, collecting six runs on seven hits off Jennings en route to a 7-0 win at Minute Maid Park.

Washington's offensive total against Jennings in 2007 looks like a Christmas gift. The right-hander surrendered 15 hits, 13 earned runs and three homers in nine innings July 18 in a 7-6 loss.

"I really can't say," Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young said of the reason for his team's success against Jennings. "He's an accomplished big league pitcher. He's tough. We were just able to get some hits off him."

Washington starter Tim Redding sliced through the Houston lineup, furthering his case as arguably the team's best pitcher of the second half, despite struggling to control his fastball. His slider worked to get three ground-ball double plays.

"Hats off to the guys behind me because they were on their toes," Redding said. "The double plays they got were huge."

Redding gave up just six hits in seven innings and got out of trouble in the fourth and fifth. The former Astros pitcher started out both innings by allowing two straight singles.

He struck out the next two batters in the fourth and got Jason Lane to foul out. Houston's two fifth-inning singles led to another foul out and a double play.

Redding was taken out after the seventh, but that was all manager Manny Acta needed from him.

"If you really need more than seven runs after seven, you're in trouble," Acta said. "And it's not your starter's fault."

The Nationals (56-69) racked up five runs in a third inning featuring Young's three-run homer to right field. The big first baseman's homer was his 12th of the season.

Washington's fruitful third inning didn't look like much at first. Redding struck out, Felipe Lopez singled and Ronnie Belliard popped out to give the Nationals one base runner with two outs. Ryan Zimmerman walked, then Young hit his homer to give the team a 4-0 edge.

The fun didn't stop there as Austin Kearns walked, Ryan Church knocked an RBI double into the corner in right field, and Wily Mo Pena drilled a run-scoring single for his second RBI of the night. Pena went 3-for-4 at the plate along with Belliard and Austin Kearns.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Nationals, their longest since a five-game skid in late June. Washington was coming off a nine-game stretch against playoff contenders Arizona, Philadelphia and New York in which it went 2-7.

The trip to play the struggling Astros (56-69) was a welcome treat for the Nationals.

Pena hit his second home run in a Nationals uniform in only his third day with the club. He belted a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence to give Washington a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

"He has the kind of power we've needed," Young said. "Now he's getting his chance to get some at-bats."

Washington reliever Jesus Colome saw his first action since returning from Class AAA Columbus. Colome had a rough time catching up with his team as his flight to Washington was delayed twice Sunday, and he showed up at RFK in the eighth inning of an 8-2 loss to the Mets.

The reliever had a shaky start to the eighth yesterday, giving up a hit and a walk before ending the inning with a couple of fly outs. Colome finished the night without allowing another base runner.

"He complained about the grip on his breaking ball," Acta said. "But he gave us the two innings we needed."