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HOU@WSH: Gonzalez fans eight through seven scoreless

WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Gio Gonzalez picked up where he left off in his last start, putting together another stellar performance on the mound to help the Nationals blank the Astros, 1-0, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.

Gonzalez, who picked up his first National League victory, pitched seven innings, allowed two hits, struck out eight batters and walked two. At one point in the game, Gonzalez retired 13 straight hitters.

"Nasty," center fielder Jayson Werth said about Gonzalez's performance. "His ball was moving all over the place. He's got good stuff. He was great."

Gonzalez threw 91 pitches, and manager Davey Johnson said he wasn't going to have Gonzalez throw more than 100 pitches on this night.

"He was great," Johnson said. "I was going to hold him to around 100 this early in the season. If a guy pitches in that kind of ballgame, I don't give him an opportunity to lose it. ... He had a great changeup, good fastball, outstanding curve. He was tough on left-handers, and he made it look easy."

Gonzalez was pleased to win his first game as a member of the Nationals.

"It's exciting to bring home a win to the Nationals -- the first one. It means a lot," Gonzalez said. "It's almost like a thank you from [general manager Mike] Rizzo, the Lerner family for taking a chance on me. So little by little, I'm going to try my best to continue to give them what they want. It's all smiles from there, especially with the new rotation. I don't want to be left behind."

Gonzalez has now pitched 14 shutout innings at Nationals Park, allowing four hits and striking out 15 against two walks in two starts. The key stat is the walk total. The two years prior to this one, Gonzalez walked a combined 183 batters.

Asked why he is able to have good control this year, Gonzalez credits catchers Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores for helping him keep the ball down in the strike zone.

"[The catchers] do a great job about giving a strike zone," Gonzalez said. "I'm not taking anything away from the catchers I had in Oakland. They were great, they were phenomenal. They helped me out in a lot of games. But, again, this is a different league for me. I figured I could just go out there, pound the strike zone, let these guys put the ball in play.

"I want to avoid the walks, let these guys put the ball in play. Hopefully, something stirs up. My job is to make sure my defense does all the work, and they do a great job in helping out."

Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was nearly as good. He pitched seven innings and allowed one run on five hits, the run scoring in the fourth inning.

With two outs, Werth blooped a double to center field. Center fielder Justin Maxwell slid and almost caught the ball. By the time he was able to pick up the ball, Werth was already on second base.

"I was hustling out of the box," Werth said. "If he catches it, I'm out. It's a double all the way if it drops."

Adam LaRoche followed and hit a popup to shallow left field. It looked like shortstop Jed Lowrie had a bead on the ball, but the ball ended up dropping between him and left fielder J.D. Martinez for a single, scoring Werth.

"It's a play that's got to be made," Lowrie said. "First time a play like that, a popup like that has happened with J.D. and I in the outfield, and our communication wasn't good, and we talked about it, and it won't happen again. It's a play that's got to be made. Communication was just bad. It was one of those in-between plays."

Reliever Tyler Clippard had an easy eighth inning, while Brad Lidge had some problems in the ninth but managed to get his second save of the season.

After Lowrie doubled, Martinez walked to put runners on first and second against Lidge.

"I'm sure I gave a lot of people a heart attack," Lidge said.

Lidge, who has been in similar jams during his 11-year career, did what he knew best: trust his stuff. And it paid off.

Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson flied out to center fielder Rick Ankiel. Travis Buck then made the final out of the game by grounding out to LaRoche at first base.

"I'm not thrilled to be in that situation, but I'm glad it worked out and glad we got the win," Lidge said.

The Nationals improved their record to 9-3. Four out of the nine victories have been decided by one run.

"We actually like it when it's close like that," Johnson said. "It's more on every at-bat, more on every pitch. We are playing games that count [like we are] in a pennant race, and they stay in your good stead later on in the season. Good teams win close ballgames."

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