WASHINGTON - For the better part of their week-long road trip, the Astros sat in the dugout and pondered their inability to score runs in bunches or get clutch hits.
The conversations that took place on Thursday night had quite a different tone.
The Astros set a franchise record by hitting three triples in one inning -- coming during a five-run outburst in the first -- and established season highs in hits and runs to snap a four-game losing streak with an 11-4 win over the Nationals in the series finale at Nationals Park.
The first-inning triples by Jose Altuve, Brian Bogusevic and Matt Downs tied a club record for the most triples in a game, and the fact they came in a span of five batters made for a remarkable feat.
"We were talking about it in the dugout and everybody said they had never seen it," Bogusevic said.
It was the first time the Astros had three triples in a game since Chuck Carr, Craig Biggio and Mike Hampton did the trick on July 2, 1997. But in one inning?
"Hitting's contagious, and you start rolling like that and everyone starts building on it," Downs said.
The fun didn't stop in the first inning. The Astros batted around and scored five runs on six hits for the second time in the game in the sixth inning to open a 10-4 lead. Houston had 17 hits against a Nationals team that entered the game with a Major League-leading 1.92 ERA.
Every Astros starter had at least one hit and scored at least one run, and six players had multi-hit games: Altuve (2-for-5), J.D. Martinez (2-for-5), Carlos Lee (2-for-5), Bogusevic (3-for-5), Downs (2-for-5) and Jason Castro (3-for-5).
"When you're struggling to score runs and then have a big night like this, I think it helps out a whole lot to carry it over into tomorrow and the next day," Downs said.
After going 3-for-36 with runners in scoring position and scoring a total of nine runs during their four-game losing streak, the Astros were nothing but clutch. They were 9-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Thursday.
"I think today we did a lot of things we haven't been doing in some of the games we've lost," Bogusevic said. "We got hits with men in scoring position, bases-loaded hits and those are the kind of things that turn a one- or two-run inning into a big inning."
Bud Norris was the beneficiary of the run support and picked up his first win, despite giving up 10 hits and four runs in six innings. Norris did his part on offense, too, with a two-run single in the sixth with the bases loaded that stretched the lead to 7-4.
"It felt nice," Norris said. "Big spot there with the bases loaded and one out and I just got something I could drive out of the box. Because the infield's back, it fell in there to score two and put up another big inning for us. To put some runs on the board is always nice."
The Astros pieced together six consecutive hits against Washington starter Edwin Jackson after one out in the first, including the triples by Altuve, Bogusevic and Downs. Martinez and Lee had singles in the inning, and Castro capped the outburst with an RBI single to make it 5-0.
"[Jackson] was throwing all right, but his location was pretty much down the middle," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "In the first inning, I thought he was a little under the weather, but he turned up a notch. He was unhittable the rest of the way."
The Nationals chipped away against Norris, cutting the lead to 5-4 on a three-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman in the third inning.
"I made a couple mistakes and that's a good offensive club," Norris said. "Zimmerman hit a good pitch out of the ballpark and that's what he does. I just battled to try to get through six and help this team get a win, and that's what I did."
Jackson retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced after Downs' tripled in the first, before Tom Gorzelanny was roughed up in the sixth. Houston batted around again, getting a two-run single by Norris, a two-run double by Altuve and an RBI groundout by Martinez to take a 10-4 lead.
"You know, the guys have been swinging the bat and have had good, quality at-bats," Mills said. "It was sure nice to see them come out and explode in the first inning. Getting the three triples -- you don't see that very often. It was sure nice to see the guys do that and it kind of kick-started everything."