Another Tight World Series Pitching Duel … Until It Wasn’t

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  Hi all.  Here’s how I saw last night’s second game of the World Series.  I can’t usually say that a 12–3 final score started out as another tight World Series game, but it happened this time with the Nationals defeating the Astros by that 12–3 score.  

  After winning game 1 5-4, the Nationals came out hot in the top of the first. Trea Turner started by walking on the first 4 pitches he saw.  Justin Verlander just doesn’t do that.  He had done it 3 times in a 14-year career, and the last was 11  years back. There followed a single by Adam Eaton and a 2-run double by Anthony Rendon. 9 pitches in, Nationals up 2–0.  90 pitches later, the Nats still had 2 runs on the board. 

  Meantime the Astros had tied the game in a heartbeat. After retiring his first two men, Stephen Strasburg briefly hit a bump in the road.  With Michael Brantley aboard, Alex Bregman tied the game with a long one to left field.  Strasburg put that aside and stopped the Astros cold as long as he was in the game.  Both starters were still in when the top of the 7th came around. 

  By this point, Verlander was on 99 pitches.  His normal catcher, Robinson Chirinos had left in favor of pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker the inning before.  With two on and two out, Tucker struck out.  Smelling blood, the Nats pounced. Verlander’s 100th pitch came to catcher Kurt Suzuki, who had ignited the winning rally the night before.  This time he was a one-man rally, taking Verlander’s offering out of the lot. From there on, nothing went right for Verlander or any of the Astros. JV, as his teammates call him, walked Victor Robles.  So ended his night.  With a little help from his friends in the bull pen, the Astros would have a chance for  a late rally like they did Saturday night against the Yankees.  The Nats had other ideas.  The Yankees had made the so-so Houston bull pen seem unhittable.  Not so last night. Ryan Pressley came in and promptly walked Turner.  Adam Eaton sacrificed both men into scoring position. Anthony Rendon hit a short fly to center.  2 out, 2 on, a one-run game in the 7th.  So far, so good.  The next move was so obvious that Juan Soto never even brought his weapon of mass destruction to the plate.  He was walked on purpose, a move that no longer forces a pitcher to throw 4 bad pitches in a row.  That filled the bases.  No way could Howie Kendrick, who hit a grand slam to win the Dodgers’ series … well, it wasn’t a grand slam but he reached on an infield hit making it 4-2.  Somehow, Pressley couldn’t hold the line after that modest infield hit.  the Ageless Asdrubal Cabrera (who the Mets didn’t want when they could have had him) singled two runs home.  Normally, if you know his name you know it because of his sparkling glove work.  This was the exception, the base hit he’ll tell his children and grandchildren about.  A wild pitch again put two runners in scoring position. Next up, Ryan Zimmerman managed an infield single scoring one run, with the trailing runner scoring on a throwing error by Bregman at third. Add 4 hits, a couple of walks and an error, and they might as well have stopped the contest there. Strasburg left after the uprising and his bull pen did what the Astros’ relievers so dismally failed to manage. 

  The Nationals weren’t finished yet.  In the top of the 8th, Victor Robles struck out, but reached first when catcher Maldonado couldn’t rein in the third strike.  After Josh James struck out Turner, Adam Eaton launched a 2-run home run to make it 10–2 Nationals.  James wasn’t finished making it worse for his team.  He walked Soto with two outs and gave up a single to left by Kendrick. Exit James, enter Hector Rondon. He didn’t do any better than Pressley or James.  Cabrera singled home his third run of the night. An inning later, with Chris Devenski pitching, defensive replacement Michael A. Taylor hit the Nationals’ third home run of the night. Maldonado homered for Houston’s final run. 

  At long last, Stephen Strasburg has a World Series win under his belt.  When the Nats took him in round 1 a decade ago, they must have had visions of multiple World Series in their minds.  While the Nats made the 2012 NLDS, Strasburg wasn’t allowed to pitch in the postseason to protect his surgically repaired elbow.  That was the first of 4 times the Nats would be eliminated in the NLDS.  Now, at 31 he’s got a World Series win.  His opponent Justin Verlander is now 0–5 in 6 World Series starts between the Tigers and Astros.  No man has lost 5 World Series starts without a win. 

  Though both of their aces Cole and Verlander have been beaten, Houston isn’t finished yet.  In 1965, the Twins beat both of the Dodgers’ aces, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, and still lost the World Series in 7 games. The Nationals have to carry on as they have in the NLCS and through the first 2 games of the World Series.  Both teams get a day off before resuming play in Washington tomorrow night.  At that time, the Nats will go with Anibal Sanchez who took a no-hitter into the 8th in the NLCS. His foe will be Zack Greinke who stopped the Yankees in game 4 of the ALCS.  After 2 games with the roof closed in Houston, the players and fans alike will have to deal with the vagaries of late October weather on the east coast.  Temps could drop into the thirties as the hours meander by tomorrow night. If they don’t, rain is in the picture for the weekend.                     

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