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Gio homers in complete game win

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Gio homers in complete game win

HOUSTON (AP) -- Gio Gonzalez pitched a nine-inning complete game and hit a home run -- both career firsts -- to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night. Nationals manager Davey Johnson was hoping Gonzalez (14-6) could go deep into this game after his bullpen had been taxed with games of 11 and 12 innings to start this series. He got just what he wanted from Gonzalez, whose other complete game was an eight-inning outing when he was with Oakland in a 4-1 win over the White Sox on Aug. 1, 2010. Things got dicey in the ninth when he allowed three hits and a run and had the tying run on third before striking out Matt Downs to end the game. He allowed nine hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Gonzalez broke a 1-1 tie with his two-run, first-pitch homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field in the second inning.

Houston cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning but Washington added an insurance run on an error in the seventh. Astros starter Armando Galarraga (0-2) yielded six hits and three runs in five-plus innings to remain winless in three starts this season since being promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Brandon Barnes got his first career hit on a single with one out in the ninth. Barnes scored from second on a single by Ben Francisco with two outs to get Houston within 4-3. Jose Altuve singled after that before Gonzalez got Downs to wrap up his big night. Galarraga got off to a tough start, walking the first two batters he faced. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single, but Steve Lombardozzi couldn't beat the throw and was out at home. Washington took a 1-0 lead when Bryce Harper scored on a balk. The play first looked to be a sacrifice fly by Adam LaRoche, but replays showed that home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called the balk before Galarraga threw the pitch that La Roche hit. Altuve hit a leadoff double for Houston and scored on a single by Justin Maxwell to tie it at 1-all. With Washington up 3-2 after Gonzalez's homer, J.D. Martinez singled with one out in the fourth, took second on a balk and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Corporan to get Houston within 3-2. The Nationals were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. A big opportunity came in the sixth when Jayson Werth walked to start the inning before Danny Espinosa singled. Kurt Suzuki drew a walk to load the bases and chase Galarraga who was replaced by Xavier Cedeno. Gonzalez grounded into a forceout. Cedeno then retired Lombardozzi and struck out Harper. Harper was unhappy with a couple of the calls during the at-bat. First he headed toward first base on a 3-1 count that was called a strike and later yelled: "No way" when he struck out looking. Zimmerman doubled in the seventh and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He scored and Jayson Werth reached on an error by third baseman Downs when he bounced the throw to first base. NOTES: Nationals LF Michael Morse singled in the fourth inning to extend his career-long hitting streak to 17 games. ... Johnson said before the game that Werth, who was held out of Tuesday's lineup with soreness in his legs, was better on Wednesday, but "not good enough to play center field." ... These teams wrap up the four-game series on Thursday when Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann opposes Lucas Harrell.

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Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The tag was clearly fake. What happened next was all too real for the NL East champion Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper got hurt and needs X-rays.

Harper injured his left thumb making an awkward slide to avoid a pretend tag by Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and the teams later cleared the benches Sunday in Washington's 10-7 win.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Harper was "sore" and would have X-rays on Monday. The reigning NL MVP had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the same thumb in 2014.

Harper led off the third inning with a triple. As he neared third, Kang acted as if a throw was coming and feigned a tag.

Harper went down, was checked by a trainer and stayed in. He scored on Anthony Rendon's double and was replaced in the field in the bottom half by Chris Heisey.

Kang insisted he merely intended to keep Harper from scoring when right fielder Josh Bell's throw was way off line.

"First of all, I meant no harm," Kang said through a translator. "During the relay play, I tried to hold the runner on third base. That's all I tried to do."

The next time Kang came up, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind him and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker as the benches emptied.

Cole said he was trying to pitch inside to Kang. Baker said the entire situation wasn't ideal for a team that is focusing on a playoff run.

"We don't want guys suspended," Baker said. "But you know, boys will be boys, and you've still got to defend your teammates."

Washington's Jayson Werth was in the middle of the skirmish. Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.

"I was very surprised I was the only one ejected considering," Rodriguez said. "I got blamed for being the one that instigated, but you can watch the film yourself."

Werth had a pinch-hit, two-run homer and Heisey had a go-ahead single during a five-run burst in the eighth. The Nationals' rally came against former teammate Felipe Rivero (1-5).

Rivero had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 25 innings since being traded from Washington to the Pirates.

Kang hit a two-run homer off Koda Glover to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh.

Shawn Kelley (3-2) wound up with the win. Former Pirates closer Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 43rd save.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli did not play after taking a foul ball off his wrist Saturday. ... RHP Neftali Feliz (arm) threw off flat ground but is not yet ready for a return to the mound.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark (15-9 2.70 ERA) had his start pushed back one day after the Nationals clinched the NL East on Saturday night. He'll looking for his career-best 16th win as Washington hosts Arizona for a four-game series.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA) will start as Pittsburgh begins a four-game series against the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Kuhl has allowed seven earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in his two previous starts against Chicago this season.

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Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

With the division title clinched the night before, it seemed the Nationals were poised for an uneventful series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. 

That wasn't to be, as the two clubs engaged in a benches clearing altercation in the bottom of the third inning. The tension started in the top of the frame, when Bryce Harper was injured while sliding to third base on a triple. The Nats took exception to Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang faking a tag on Harper, which may have led to the injury. 

So when Nats starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in the bottom of the inning, the near-fracas was ignited.

Cole was immediately ejected from the game, benches cleared, and each side exchanged words. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was also ejected from the game.