Astros smack 3 HRs, win 11th straight in rout of Nationals

The Houston Astros belted three early home runs and rode a strong starting pitching from Framber Valdez to win their 11th game in a row by beating the host Washington Nationals 6-1 on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Jose Altuve’s solo shot and Yuli Gurriel’s two-run blast came in a five-run first inning. Yordan Alvarez homered in the third.

By then, Valdez was on his way to a stellar performance in what became the Astros’ fifth consecutive win by five or more runs — the last four of those on the road.

Valdez (2-2) lasted 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He notched his first victory since Opening Day.

Washington lost for the fourth time in its last five games. The Nationals didn’t score until the seventh inning on Alcides Escobar’s fielder’s choice grounder. That scoring chance stemmed from Keibert Ruiz’s leadoff walk.

Nelson Cruz finished with two of Washington’s eight singles and the team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

It was the first meeting between the teams since the Nationals won Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. Houston manager Dusty Baker faced Washington for the first time since his time as manager of the Nationals ended after the 2017 season.

Alvarez’s blast went to center field, boosting the margin to 6-0 for his team-high 11th long ball of the season.

Washington starter Josiah Gray (4-3) made it through six innings, allowing all six runs on six hits. He struck out five and walked two.

Houston had only one hit after the third inning. Five of the team’s hits came in the first frame.

It was all about timely hitting for the Astros, with Alvarez and Gurriel each having two hits among the team’s seven. Houston left only three runners on base.

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