Livan Hernandez was scheduled to pitch five innings on Friday night. He lasted only three.
The Houston Astros banged out three runs on seven hits against Washington's ace in a 7-6 win over the Nationals.
"I tried to throw inside but it wasn't working," Hernandez said. "It wouldn't break for a strike. It would break more down. I tried throwing a comebacker to the mitt for a strike, and it wasn't happening."
Hernandez (0-1) threw 77 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced eight batters in the third inning.
Brett Wallace led the Astros with three hits, including two doubles, a single, two RBIs and a run. Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson, Clint Barmes, Drew Locke and Jason Bourgeois each had two hits for Houston.
Astros starter Lance Pendleton (1-0) went two innings, surrendering one hit with two strikeouts and a walk. Henry Villar also pitched two scoreless innings for Houston.
Jesus Flores hit a two-run home run for the Nationals and Mike Morse had two hits, including a solo home run. Morse leads the team with 12 this spring. He is hitting .480 through 12 games.
"He's really been like this since Day 1 of the spring," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's been outstanding. He seems to put the bat on the ball every at-bat. He's really making a strong case for himself."
Washington's No. 1 draft pick, Bryce Harper, was 1 for 2 with an RBI. He also was thrown out trying to advance from first to third on a single.