Justin Verlander sharp in season debut as Astros down Nationals

Justin Verlander pitched six solid innings in his first outing of the season as the Houston Astros beat the host Washington Nationals 5-3 on Friday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

Verlander, a veteran right-hander who had been out since spring training because of a shoulder ailment, limited Washington to two runs on four hits without a walk. He struck out four in earning the decision. He also picked a runner off second base.

Chas McCormick drove in two runs, Jeremy Pena and Mauricio Dubon each had three hits and the Astros never trailed after scoring three second-inning runs in the opener of the three-game series. Both teams were off Thursday.

Riley Adams homered for the Nationals, who were coming off a 5-4 mark on a West Coast trip.

Starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore (2-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on seven hits in four innings. Washington used six pitchers.

The Astros led 5-2 going to the bottom of the ninth when the Nationals’ CJ Abrams smacked a lead-off triple and scored on Jesse Winker’s sacrifice fly. Lane Thomas then reached on an infield single and Luis Garcia Jr. walked to bring the winning run to the plate against Josh Hader.

Hader struck out Joey Meneses and Nick Senzel to secure his second save of the season.

Before Hader, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly worked an inning each in relief of Verlander.

Yainer Diaz and Pena had run-scoring doubles in the second inning before McCormick’s RBI single.

The Nationals broke through for a third-inning run on Ildemaro Vargas’ single, which knocked in Adams.

McCormick’s sacrifice fly in the fifth restored a three-run cushion before Adams launched his second homer in the bottom of the inning.

Dubon knocked in an eighth-inning run for the Astros, who finished with 13 hits and drew two walks but left eight runners on base.

The Astros won for just the third time in eight road games this season.