HOUSTON (AP) -- Kaz Matsui has dramatically increased Houston's team speed. On Wednesday night, he showed the Astros just how valuable his quickness can be.
Matsui stole second and raced to third on a wild pitch before scoring the winning run on a single by Carlos Lee in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Astros to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals.He reached on a walk.Matsui, signed in the offseason to replace over-40 stalwart Craig Biggio, has three stolen bases in the last four games."A big part of my game is using my speed," Matsui said through an interpreter.Lee's single, that flew just over the head of Lastings Milledge, gave Houston its fifth straight victory and its 10th come-from-behind win.Joel Hanrahan (0-2) intentionally walked Lance Berkman after Matsui stole second. Jesus Colome came on in relief and Matsui advanced to third on a wild pitch before Lee's hit. Lee also had the game-winning RBIs in Tuesday's win over Washington.Matsui and Michael Bourn have helped the Astros go from one of the teams least likely to steal a base, to one of the best at the task. Houston is in the top 5 in the league with 32 stolen bases after finishing last season in 25th place with 65. That had four Wednesday."That's what speed does for a team," Lee said.Houston closer Jose Valverde (4-1) pitched a perfect ninth for the win.Ryan Zimmerman had two homers, the second in the sixth inning to tie it at 3. Zimmerman had two homers in the first three games of the season, but had hit just one in the 29 games since.Even Zimmerman has been impressed by Houston's baserunning this week."I wish we could do that," he said. "They get a man on first and a couple of pitches later, he's in scoring position. They're a smart team, they know what counts to run on."The Nationals had a chance to take the lead in the seventh, but Bourn's throw from center field to Brad Ausmus beat Wily Mo Pena home and ended the inning.Astros ace Roy Oswalt allowed six hits and three runs with a season-high nine strikeouts in seven innings. He allowed both of Zimmerman's homers to bring his season total to 11, which ties the major league lead. Oswalt gave up 14 in all of 2007."They were just bad pitches, real bad pitches," Oswalt said of the home run balls.Berkman's homer to the left-field Crawford Boxes in the fourth inning was his eighth consecutive hit, tying a franchise record.Hunter Pence singled before Ty Wigginton was hit by a pitch. Pence stole third base before Wigginton stole second. Oswalt's single to shallow center scored the pair and gave Houston a 3-2 lead.Oswalt allowed his 10th homer on Zimmerman's two-run shot to right field in the first inning. Oswalt settled down after the home run, and struck out the next six batters before a double by Felipe Lopez with one out in the third. He retired nine of the next 10, before Zimmerman's second homer with one out in the sixth.Nationals starter Odalis Perez remains winless in eight starts this season. He allowed five hits and three runs in five innings.He was ill Wednesday and vomited after the first inning."He still gave us a good effort," manager Manny Acta said. "You've got to hand it to him, he was very sick, but he still gave us five good innings."
The Nationals replaced Matt Chico in the rotation with Mike O'Connor. Chico, who moves to the bullpen, was 0-5 with a 6.87 ERA in seven starts this season. O'Connor, who'll start Saturday, allowed one hit and walked one in the sixth. ... RHP Felipe Paulino, on the 15-day disabled list with a pinched nerve in his arm, has begun a throwing program at Houston's spring training complex in Florida. ... The Astros traded LHP Stephen Randolph from Triple-A Round Rock to Philadelphia on Wednesday for a player to be named later. ... Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca was injured while batting in the seventh inning and two fans were ejected for yelling at him. Acta said those fans were "obnoxious" and using "inappropriate language."