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'Progress' on mound for Lyles in Astros' loss

Right-hander gives up three runs as split Nationals squad stages comeback

'Progress' on mound for Lyles in Astros' loss

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the second straight day, the Astros raced out to an early first-inning lead Wednesday, but it wasn't enough this time as a split Nationals squad twice rallied en route to a 9-7 victory at Osceola County Stadium.

Houston jumped all over Nationals starter Ross Ohlendorf in the first, plating four runs off four hits and a walk. Washington didn't help itself much either, committing two throwing errors in the opening frame -- one on a pickoff attempt and another trying to cut down Carlos Pena advancing first-to-third on a single.

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The Nationals quickly overcame their slow start though, tallying one run in the second and two more in the third off Astros starter Jordan Lyles before tying the game in the fourth against reliever Hector Ambriz. For Lyles, the outing -- which lowered his ERA to 19.13 -- was just the latest in what has been a rocky Spring Training for the right-hander.

"I felt a lot better," Lyles said. "We implemented a couple things on the side this week, and we tried that. I felt like I got better in that sense today, working on something new. The runs were still there, but I'll take what I got off the mound and the progress we made today."

Houston regrouped following the Nats' string of four unanswered runs to recapture the lead one inning later, courtesy of back-to-back doubles from Jose Altuve and Pena.

Once again, Washington rallied, this time taking the lead for good behind a three-run eighth inning.

The rally began with back-to-back hits off Astros reliever Dallas Keuchel to start the inning, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out. After second baseman Rick Hague tied the game with an RBI groundout, Anthony Rendon delivered the decisive blow with a two-run homer over the right-center-field fence.

The late blast capped a 4-for-5 day at the plate for Rendon, who also singled home the initial tying run in the fourth and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Up next: The Astros travel to Viera, Fla., on Thursday for a rematch with the Nationals in what could be a pivotal game for starter Alex White. Vying for one of Houston's final rotation spots, White is coming off his roughest performance of the spring last week against the Mets, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings despite throwing 41 of his 55 pitches for strikes.

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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