Harrell sharp in Astros loss to Nationals


That’s a headline we could see more than once this season.

The Astros lost 7-1 to the Washington Nationals today, but it wasn’t Lucas Harrell‘s fault. Harrell got the start and pitched four strong innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He also racked up four strikeouts against a Nationals lineup that featured most of their regular starters. That’s a good sign for Astros fans. With the successful outing Harrell may have surged ahead of Bud Norris in the battle for the Astros #1 starter’s job.

Lucas Harrell (Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)

Harrell was relieved by Hector Ambriz to start the fifth inning. Ambriz allowed one run on two hits in one inning of work and was tagged with the loss. It was the first action of the spring for Ambriz who had been sidelined with a sprained left ankle. As luck would have it, Ambriz took a comebacker off the same ankle in today’s game. Fortunately, he was okay and stayed in the game.

Wesley Wright and Brad Peacock followed Ambriz to the mound and both had somewhat rough outings. Brett Oberholtzer and Sergio Escalona kept the Nats off the scoreboard for the final two innings.

The Astros bats were somewhat silenced today. Soft tossing lefty Zach Duke (yes, the same Zach Duke who failed to make the Astros roster last spring) got the win, holding Houston to one hit and one walk in three innings pitched. Jose Altuve was one of the only bright spots. Altuve had a double and an RBI single in three trips to the plate. Catcher Carlos Corporan was 1 for 2 and scored the Astros only run.

Astros manager Bo Porter, who was the National’s third base coach last season, went up against his former team for the first time. I’m sure Porter wanted his team to play better than they did, but he will get a few chances to avenge today’s defeat in the next week or so. The Astros play Washington again on Thursday — this time at home. The two teams also have another pair of meetings coming up, with a home-and-home series set for next Wednesday and Thursday.