While Houston will aim to sweep the three-game set on Thursday, the news wasn't all good for the Astros on Wednesday
The team announced that right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing right forearm surgery to repair a flexor tendon and remove a bone spur.
McCullers had yet to pitch this season after aggravating the tendon in spring training -- an injury originally sustained in the 2021 postseason. He logged only eight regular-season starts in 2022.
Additionally, slugger Yordan Alvarez will be sidelined for at least four weeks because of a right oblique strain. Alvarez, currently on the 10-day injured list, has missed the last five games.
With two-fifths of their projected rotation out for the season -- right-hander Luis Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery last month -- and right-hander Jose Urquidy (shoulder) sidelined until the All-Star break, the Astros need to bolster their starting-pitching depth
However, with Alvarez joining Michael Brantley (shoulder) on the IL, an additional left-handed hitter might be a target for general manager Dana Brown at the trade deadline.
"A bat would be really good," Brown said. "But with that said, we're not afraid to strengthen the rotation. I'm always thinking about starter depth. If there's an opportunity there, we'll definitely pursue it."
Right-hander Cristian Javier (7-1, 3.13 ERA) is the Astros' scheduled starter for Thursday. He had his streak of five consecutive winning starts snapped when he did not factor into the decision of a 10-9, 14-inning loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Friday. Javier allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts over five innings
Javier posted a 1.86 ERA and a .587 opponents' OPS during his streak, logging 29 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Javier has faced the Nationals once previously, when he gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings in a 13-6 road loss on May 14, 2022
Left-hander MacKenzie Gore (3-5, 4.04 ERA) will start the series finale for the Nationals. He is winless over his last eight starts, going 0-4 with a 4.71 ERA and an .856 opponents' OPS
Gore, who is tied for 13th in the National League with 83 strikeouts, surrendered a season-high five runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts over five innings during a 6-4 road loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday. His last victory came against the New York Mets on April 26.
The 24-year-old North Carolina native will oppose the Astros for the first time
Lost in the wackiness of the ninth inning on Wednesday was another solid start from Nationals right-hander Josiah Gray, who allowed a two-run, two-out single to Jose Abreu in the first inning and back-to-back solo home runs to Abreu and Yainer Diaz in the fourth
Gray held Houston scoreless in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to finish his outing.
"I think he's pitching better and I think he's pitching better in situations where he needs to get out of an inning," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "He starts focusing on really getting the ball down and throwing more strikes
"When he gets guys on base, he kind of settles down a little bit and he doesn't try to rush, and he's done really well."
--Field Level Media