The Nationals won in a landslide, 10-0, while a former Houston hurler, Tim Redding, threw six shutout frames to coast to his seventh win of the season. The Astros, meanwhile, dropped to nine games under .500 at 42-51.
Roy Oswalt threw 17 pitches in the first inning before leaving with a left hip abductor strain -- the same injury that forced him to miss two starts prior to this outing.
Sensing Oswalt was not going to go very deep in this start, Houston manager Cecil Cooper had Chad Paronto warming up in the bullpen as the Astros batted in the opening frame. By the end of the first, Paronto had sprinted in from the bullpen, first to bat for Oswalt and then to take over on the mound.
And it was all downhill from there.
Paronto pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up three runs, including a two-run homer to Ronnie Belliard.
"Paronto was just up in the zone, couldn't get the ball down," Cooper said.
The same could be said about Dave Borkowski, who allowed seven runs over his two innings. The merry-go-round of Nationals baserunners continued for the most of the night, with most of the damage arriving in the fifth frame.
Facing Borkowski, Washington sent eight men to the plate and scored five runs, thanks in part to Belliard's second homer of the night -- a three-run shot that put the home team up by eight.
"When you throw the ball in the middle of the plate, they usually hit it," Cooper said.
But Borkowski defended his performance, while realizing he did make some mistakes.
"When you throw it down the middle and miss your spots, they're going to hit it, but I certainly don't think I threw as bad as it looks," Borkowski said. "I threw a lot of pitches in that were just missing. They took them just off the plate for balls, and when I was behind in the count, on the outer third, it's going to get hit when you're behind in the count and you have to throw a fastball."
This was Borkowski's fourth appearance since he was called up from Triple-A earlier this month. In his first three outings, he allowed one run over a combined six innings.
"It's disappointing," he said. "I feel like I had righted the ship and things were looking better. I felt great and felt like I made some good pitches, [with] just horrible results."
The Houston offense was unable to do much to offset the pitching. Redding and Steven Shell held the Astros to nine hits, handing the visiting club its third shutout loss of the year.
"[Redding] threw strikes," Cooper said. "He had a good fastball tonight, and I thought he threw some good breaking balls in pretty good counts where we couldn't do much with it."
The Astros gave themselves few chances to score. Lance Berkman connected with a two-out hit in the first and moved to third on Carlos Lee's hit to left, but Miguel Tejada sent a long fly ball to center for the third out.
Lee and Tejada knocked consecutive hits to lead off the fourth, but Redding induced a pop fly from Ty Wigginton, a fly ball from Michael Bourn and struck out Brad Ausmus.
"We squared him up a few times, but we needed to square him up in the first and needed to square him up in the [fourth], when we had a couple guys on there," Cooper said. "That was our chance -- we had had him on the ropes. He had thrown a lot of pitches -- I think he was in the high 90s at that point -- and we just couldn't get him."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.