- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Houston’s Collin McHugh gave up his first runs of the spring Tuesday as the Washington Nationals beat the Astros 6-4.

Daniel Murphy’s two-run double highlighted a three-run inning off the 19-game winner in the third.

“You want to have faced everything when you get to your first start (of the season),” said McHugh, who gave up three runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings and struck out five. “I faced a little bit of adversity. You want to have to make pitches with guys on base in tough situations and be able to get that strikeout when you need one. We were able to do all of those things.”

Michael Taylor drove in Murphy with his second hit to put the Nationals up 3-0.

“Nobody wants to give up runs. I don’t care who you are or what time of the year. But if you’re going to, then you want to get something out of it, and I think today was productive from that standpoint,” McHugh said.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch noted it was “a couple bad cutters” that did McHugh in.

“He was elevated just a little, but I thought his changeup was good when he was in duress and he was able to get his pitch count up to 60 … He’ll make less mistakes as the spring goes on, that’s the way the pitching often goes,” Hinch said.

The Astros came back to take the lead in the eighth inning with the help of Marwin Gonzalez’s fourth home run, but back-to-back doubles by the Nationals’ Trea Turner and Clint Robinson drove in three runs in the ninth off Houston reliever Jake Buchanan.


Nationals: Washington starter Gio Gonzalez gave up one run and three hits in four innings while striking out four and walking four. He threw 68 pitches, including a fastball that Marwin Gonzalez’s homered off of after catcher Pedro Severino had called for something else. “If you have a game plan, why steal from it?” Gio Gonzalez shrugged. “That’s a boneheaded mistake on my part.”


Nationals: 1B/3B Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) will play first base for the first time this spring Wednesday.

Astros: C Max Stassi will miss six weeks after Wednesday’s surgery to repair a broken left wrist. … RHP Luke Gregerson, who has been set back by a left intercostal strain, will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday morning, his first appearance of the spring. … George Spring was lifted for a pinch runner after being hit by a pitch for the third time this spring, but Hinch said he is not injured and will play Wednesday.


Hinch said he is not likely to name a starting first baseman or a closer until the end of spring training, perhaps even later. “We have a good bullpen. They’re all going to be used,” he said. “It’s very premature to know exactly when I’m going to want to use them despite the status of being called something like a closer.”


Nationals: After a perfect three innings in his first start Thursday, RHP Bronson Arroyo will pitch against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter.

Astros: RHP Brad Peacock will take the mound at home against the Detroit Tigers for his first start.

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