- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) — Kaz Matsui’s three-run homer led the Houston Astros to a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

Matsui’s shot to the first row of the stands in right field near the bullpen came in the seventh inning and gave Houston a 4-0 lead. The win gives the Astros a 3-1 series victory over the last-place Nationals and leaves Houston at .500 heading into the All-Star break.

The Astros got another solid start from Brian Moehler (6-5), who allowed seven hits in 6 1-3 innings to win for the fourth time in five decisions. Closer Jose Valverde got the last four outs for his eighth save of the season and the 150th of his career.

Houston added a run in the eighth inning when Lance Berkman scored on a balk by Tyler Clippard, who looked to have lost his balance and almost fell off the mound.

Geoff Blum was hit by a pitch in the seventh before Hunter Pence singled. Ivan Rodriguez struck out before Matsui’s homer. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann (3-4) walked reliever Alberto Arias before he was replaced by Joe Beimel, who finally got out of the inning.

A day after getting their most runs (13) and hits (21) of the season, the Nationals got 11 hits but couldn’t convert, leaving 13 men on base.

Wil Nieves, who led the Nationals with four hits, singled in the seventh before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Zimmermann. Moehler was replaced by Arias, who allowed a single by Nyjer Morgan. Nick Johnson walked to load the bases for the second straight inning, but the Nationals came away empty again after Ryan Zimmerman popped out and Adam Dunn grounded out.

Houston was helped on that play by shifting the defense to the right to deal with the left-handed Dunn. The shift left Miguel Tejada behind second base and in perfect position to grab Dunn’s grounder and get it to Berkman at first for the out.

Johnson doubled to open the sixth inning before Moehler allowed two straight walks with one out to load the bases. He got out of the jam by retiring Alberto Gonzalez and Anderson Hernandez to end the inning.

Tejada’s single in the first inning scored Michael Bourn and gave Houston a 1-0 lead. Bourn had reached and advanced to second when Gonzalez overthrew first base.

Carlos Lee got a double in the fourth inning on a fly ball to left-center field. The Astros argued that it hit above the yellow line on the wall and should be a home run and the officials reviewed the call. Replays showed it hit below the line and the call stood.

Zimmermann allowed five hits and four runs with six strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.

NOTES: Astros RHP Doug Brocail, on the disabled list with a left hamstring injury, will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday. He threw a bullpen session Sunday and said he is feeling great. … Sunday was Houston’s 20th straight day without an off day. … Washington’s Josh Willingham singled in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

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