April 28, 2014

The Washington Nationals might be extra protective of their hands going forward, considering the damage multiple hand injuries have done to their offense.

They're also hoping they won't need many runs against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night behind Gio Gonzalez.

Washington (14-12) placed Bryce Harper on the disabled list prior to wrapping up its season-long 11-game homestand with Sunday's 4-2 loss to San Diego. Harper suffered a sprained thumb during a head-first slide in Friday's 11-1 victory.

Catcher Wilson Ramos hasn't played since the team's opener following surgery on his left hand, while Ryan Zimmerman hasn't played since April 12 after breaking his right thumb on a slide. Neither is expected back until next month.

Harper, Ramos and Zimmerman combined for 62 of the team's 161 homers in 2013.

"It's frustrating," said Harper, who was 5 for 11 over his last three games. "I want to be out there and be able to help my team win every single day."

The Nationals averaged 5.3 runs while slugging .448 in 11 games prior to Zimmerman's injury, but that's dipped to .377 in 15 games since while scoring three runs or fewer 10 times. They managed just five hits in Sunday's loss.

Gonzalez (3-1, 3.00 ERA) is expected to be ready despite being pulled after 83 pitches in his previous start due to shoulder tightness. Gonzalez allowed two runs over five innings against the Angels in Wednesday's 5-4 win before exiting.

"After the fifth inning, it started getting a little colder. (The shoulder) felt a little tight," Gonzalez told the team's website. "(Manager) Matt (Williams) started seeing it in the sixth inning. I feel fine now. I did all my exercises. I feel great."

The left-hander, who is winless with a 6.88 ERA in his last seven interleague starts, won his two previous starts versus Houston in 2012, allowing three runs over 16 innings.

The Astros (9-17) took the final two meetings of their four-game home set with Oakland, but are just 4-8 on the road. Making his first career interleague start, Jarred Cosart (1-2, 6.12) will try to follow an impressive outing from Collin McHugh, who gave up just two hits over 8 2-3 innings in his 11th career start in Sunday's 5-1 victory.

Cosart turned in a solid bounce-back effort Wednesday, limiting Seattle to a two-run homer and three other hits over 6 2-3 innings of a 5-3 road loss. He was shelled for seven runs while recording just one out in his previous start at Oakland on April 18.

Jose Altuve was 2 for 4 with his first homer of the season Sunday to improve to 9 for 18 over his last four, raising his season average from .250 to .292. He's also batting .346 during an 12-game interleague hitting streak.

Dexter Fowler is 9 for 28 (.321) during an eight-game hitting streak and is batting .403 over his last 15 contests versus Washington with 12 extra-base hits.

Both are 3 for 6 off Gonzalez.

Jayson Werth is 10 for 27 during a six-game hitting streak after going 1 for 17 in his previous five.

Washington has won 13 of the last 17 meetings, including eight of nine.

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