WASHINGTON (AP) — John Lannan's pitching got him into trouble, and his fielding made it worse.
The Washington Nationals left-hander had already given up six consecutive hits in the third inning and allowed the Houston Astros to score three runs. When Jose Altuve hit a grounder to the third base side of the mound with the bases loaded, Lannan pounced. He couldn't wait to throw the ball home to perhaps start an inning-ending double play. Instead, the throw sailed over the head of catcher Jesus Flores, and two runs scored. A moment later — after a successful suicide squeeze — Lannan's night was mercifully over.
The Nationals' 9-3 loss to Astros was their 13th in the last 17 games. It was their third in five games to Houston — baseball's worst team.
"Just one of those days where nothing went right," said a downcast manager Davey Johnson.
Washington is a season-high 11 games under .500 and it wasn't just Lannan who performed poorly. Rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa struck out three times and is hitless in last 15 at-bats — 11 of them strikeouts.
"He's overly trying. He's trying to do too much," Johnson said.
The Astros' six-run third inning equaled their high for the year. It started when Jordan Schafer doubled down the left-field line with one out and took third as Michael Morse misplayed the ball. Each of Houston's next five batters singled, including run-scoring hits by Jason Bourgeois, Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson.
After the six straight hits, the bases were loaded and Altuve hit his dribbler and Lannan threw wildly. He dropped to his knees and held his head in his hands after the throw as two runs scored.
"I usually don't show emotion on the field, and I showed it there," Lannan said. "Really down on myself for making that errant throw. That was the changing point — I think."
Lannan (9-12) gave up six runs — four earned — and eight hits in 2 1-3 innings.
"It's one of those days where I didn't get the job done, and it's unacceptable," Lannan said.
After the wild throw, Carlos Corporan's neat bunt past Lannan scored the sixth run, and Johnson trudged out to the mound to end Lannan's misery.
"It sure gets unsightly when it happens," Johnson said.
Wandy Rodriguez allowed three runs and seven hits to win his 11th game. Lee also had a double, single and an RBI, and Bourgeois had three hits. Lee has now driven in at least 80 runs for the 13th straight season, second only to Alex Rodriguez among active players.
Rodriguez (11-10) is the only Houston starter with a winning record.
Morse hit his team-leading 27th home run on a solo shot in the sixth inning, and Chris Marrero hit a two-run single in the fourth.
NOTES: RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-0) will make his second start for the Nationals on Sunday since returning from last year's Tommy John surgery. Johnson said he didn't have a strict innings or pitch-count limit for his young star. "I'm just going to go by what I see. I don't have a set number. I'm going to see how he's going along. I'm not going to let him struggle or anything like that," Johnson said. ... The Nationals named IF Steve Lombardozzi and RHP Brad Peacock minor league player and pitcher of the year. Both are with Washington this September. Johnson said Peacock would likely get his first major league start during the team's four-game series at the Mets starting Monday. ... RHP Lance Pendleton was activated by Houston, a day after he was claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees. ... LHP Sergio Escalona, who suffered a sprained left ankle on Friday, will be placed on the 60-day disabled list on Sunday when the Astros will purchase the contract of LHP Xavier Cedeon from Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... RHP Henry Sosa (2-3) will start for the Astros Sunday.