by Tyler Radecki, Staff Writer

The Washington Nationals had five of their seven hits come from just two players, but they managed to score three runs in the ninth and come back to beat the Houston Astros Monday night, 5-2.

Win win evens the Nats record again at 48-48 and moves them into sole possession of third place for the time being, one half game ahead of the New York Mets and one full game ahead of the surging Florida Marlins.

Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman each had home runs and combined for every Nationals hit until the ninth inning, when Roger Bernadina led off the inning with the game tied at two.

A sacrifice bunt by Danny Espinosa advanced Bernadina to second and Zimmerman punched a ball to right field to drive him in one batter later. Astros second baseman Jeff Keppinger had shifted to his right to guard against the hit up the middle, and Zimmerman lined a pitch right where Keppinger usually would play, driving in the leading run.

Morse added another single and Laynce Nix bounced a ball over first baseman Carlos Lee to drive in two runs and give the Nats a three-run cushion. Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th save of the season, and the Nats were back at .500.

It wasn’t pretty, but they had scored five runs and rebounded from yesterday’s crushing 9-8 loss to Atlanta. For much of the game, the Nationals batters looked overmatched by Houston’s Jordan Lyles, who took the loss despite pitching 8 1/3 innings with four earned runs against. They fought, though, and found a way to pull out the win.

Starting pitcher Jason Marquis also threw one of his best starts of the season, going eight strong innings with just six hits and two runs against. He walked one batter and struck out nine to get his eighth win of the season and lower his ERA to 3.92. As the season approaches the trade deadline, appearances like last night's for Marquis will make him very attractive to a contender for the stretch run.

As good as Marquis was, the offense didn’t do much to help him out. Morse hit his 16th home run of the year in the fifth and Zimmerman added his 5th two innings later, but no other National had a hit. Without any support, Marquis continued to pitch well and give the bullpen – which was taxed in yesterday’s game – a much-needed rest.

THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse combined for five hits, two home runs, three RBI and four runs scored. The two corner infielders carried the team offensively, keeping them in the game long enough for the rest of the offense – well, Laynce Nix – to chip in with some big hits of their own.

THE BAD: Two hits from the rest of the offense. Roger Bernadina and Laynce Nix provided the only other hits for the Nats, and both of them came in the top of the 9th inning. Other than Zimmerman and Morse, the Nats’ bats were dead for most of the game on Monday.

THE UGLY: Jayson Werth, who went 0-for-3. He had a walk in the 9th on a very close pitch on a full count and continues to struggle at the plate, failing to make solid contact in any of his at bats. In the 9th inning, Werth was on third base with one out when Wilson Ramos popped to short. Werth stumbled off the base and was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

THE STATS: Seven hits, two walks, six strikeouts.  2-for-3 w/ RISP, two LOB, two GIDP. No errors.