Mar 5, 2014; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the New York Mets in spring training action at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Harper Homers in 8-5 Nats Win Over Astros

Thanks to a six-run first inning, the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 8-5, improving their Grapefruit League record to 5-2.

Tanner Roark got the start for the Nationals, throwing 2 2/3 innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts. It was another strong performance for the right-hander as he continues his push for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

Doug Fister was originally scheduled to start today’s game but was scratched due to right elbow inflammation. The right-hander had an MRI on the elbow and he’ll rest for a few days.

“We are not concerned about it,” manager Matt Williams told’s Bill Ladson on Friday. “If the season started [today], he could go. He could pitch, but we are not going to take any chances.

Bryce Harper got things started for the Nationals’ offense in the bottom of the first, launching his first home run of the spring and giving the Nationals a 3-0 lead. Wilson Ramos doubled that lead three batters later, crushing a one-out three-run homer off of Astros’ left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.

The Astros weren’t going down without a fight however, as they began chipping away at the Nationals’ lead in the third inning, when a home run by Mark Kraus made it a 6-1 game. The Astros added four more runs over the next two innings off of Nationals’ relievers Christian Garcia and Rafael Soriano, making it a 6-5 game.

Soriano showed some rust in his first appearance of the spring, giving up two runs on three hits in an inning of work.

Houston’s rally would end there however, as Nationals’ relievers Jerry Blevins, Tyler Robertson and Luis Ayala combined to throw four scoreless innings to seal the win for the Nationals.

Washington’s final two runs came on a two run single by Zach Walters in the bottom of the sixth. Walters is now batting .875 this spring.

The Nationals will play split-squad games tomorrow afternoon, with Ross Detwiler taking the mound against the Braves in Viera, and Chris Young taking the mound against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

With Opening Day just three weeks away, several competitions should start to heat up soon for the Nationals as the team is expected to make its first round of cuts this Sunday. Stay tuned to District on Deck as we will make sure to keep you updated on every roster decision that the team makes over the next few days.

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