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Nats eye another strong pitching performance in Houston

(SportsNetwork.com) - No Bryce Harper. No problem for the Washington Nationals.

Though their young phenom will be shelved for a while after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, the Nationals will continue to rely on pitching as they return to Houston on Wednesday night for the finale of a brief two-game interleague series with the Astros.

The Nationals' staff has a combined 2.12 earned run average over the last 11 games and has surrendered three or fewer earned runs in eight of those games.

Next to get the call for a start is right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who's split a pair of decisions and maintained a 2.70 ERA across his last three starts. He last pitched on Thursday and gave up three runs in six innings of a game the Nationals ultimately lost to San Diego, 4-3, in 12 innings.

"I had really good stuff and everything was working," Zimmermann said. "It's just unacceptable to be going six innings with the stuff I had. It's just frustrating (when) you throw 90-some pitches and two aren't where you want them to be. It kind of sums up your night right there."

He struck out 11 batters and allowed three hits in six innings while beating the Astros in their last matchup in August 2012. In four career starts against Houston, he is 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA.

For the Astros, lefty Brett Oberholtzer makes a sixth attempt at a first 2014 victory.

He had a 3.04 ERA across his initial four starts while Houston scored just six runs, but he was roughed up for six runs in 3 2/3 innings of a 10-1 loss to Oakland in his last start on Thursday.

In his last nine starts, he's 0-8 and hasn't won since Sept. 1, 2013.

He has never faced the Nationals.

On Tuesday, Adam LaRoche collected both of his hits in the eighth and ninth innings to help the Nationals take a 4-3 win.

Jayson Werth led off the eighth inning with a single to center that chased Anthony Bass after one inning in relief. LaRoche then greeted Raul Valdes with a long double to left-center that plated Werth.

Houston couldn't muster anything in the home half of the eighth and Josh Fields (0-3) walked Denard Span to lead off the ninth. Span stole second during Anthony Rendon's at-bat, then moved over to third on Rendon's groundout. After a walk to Werth to put runners at the corners, LaRoche stroked an RBI single out to right to give Washington the lead.

Tyler Clippard (2-2) pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up the win and Rafael Soriano worked around two walks in the ninth to secure his fifth save of the season.

The Nationals won seven of eight versus the Astros in 2012, including a four- game sweep in Houston.

04/30 11:03:26 ET

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