HOUSTON – 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.