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Nationals bring momentum into the rubber match against Astros

The Washington Nationals should have some momentum going into Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the visiting side Houston Astros.

The series even plays one game apiece after the Nationals rallied for 5-4, 10 innings on Saturday. They scored two runs in the ninth and one run in overtime.

‘We’re in it until we’re not in it’ Nationals said manager Dave Martinez. “And they believe that. They believe they can score two, three points at any time.”

Designated hitter Joey Meneses delivered the game-winning single for just his fifth run of the month.

“Every play that helps the team win is important,” Meneses said. ‘It means a lot. You work for this moment.”

That swing could be the spark that helps Meneses emerge from tough times at the plate. After three hits on Saturday, he is hitting .217.

“He’s really frustrated,” Martinez said. “He came through when we needed him most. Hopefully he gets going and drives in some runs.”

The Nationals had gone 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Saturday before their comeback.

“Our bats have got to get better,” Martinez said. “We’ve been chasing a lot. We’re taking good pitches to hit.”

The Astros have lost four of their last five games, with the last two losses coming in ten innings. The most recent setback brought with it special misery.

“You have the guys you want in the game, and not being able to close this game out is hard to swallow,” Houston manager Joe Espada said.

The Astros will look for their third quality start of the series when right-hander Cristian Javier (2-0, 1.54 ERA) takes the mound on Sunday. He has gone at least five innings in all four starts this season, allowing no more than two earned runs in each. This will be only his second road outing of the season.

Javier is 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two career starts against Nationals, although he shut them out last year after two hits in six innings in Houston. He gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings two years ago in Washington.

Left-hander Mitchell Parker (1-0, 3.60 ERA) would be Washington’s starting pitcher in just his second big league game. He pitched five innings and gave up two runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers in his team’s road victory on Monday.

Parker came first Nationals pitcher who won in his major league debut in 14 years (since Stephen Strasburg in June 2010). Now he will make his first appearance in the Majors as a member of the home team, but don’t expect him to change.

“That boy has a very low heart rate,” Martinez said. “Nothing seems to faze him.”

Parker has survived one game.

“A very special experience,” he said. “I try not to think about it too much.”

Parker will wear number 70. That’s notable because he, like other players from the major leagues, wore number 42 in his debut on Monday in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.

— Field-level media