Hi all. Here’s how I saw last night’s 4th game of the World Series and how I see the next act in the annual autumn passion play. The Astros, who looked finished after losing the first 2 games in Houston have now squared accounts by winning games 3 and 4. Last night’s game ended in an 8–1 final thanks to Alex Bregman’s grand slam and a marvelous effort from an unheralded starter and a bull pen which took a pounding in game 2 Wednesday night. This year’s Astros join the 1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees as the only teams to lose games 1 and 2 at home, and follow that up by winning games 3 and 4 on the road. The Yanks did one better, taking game 5 in Atlanta. That’s the Astros’ next task.
It’s been common knowledge that the Astros would turn to Gerrit Cole in game 5. The $64 question was, would they find themselves behind 3 games to 1 and desperate for a win just to return to Houston, or would they manage to tie the series and begin game 5 back where we all started before game 1. Not only would the offense have to make an appearance, but somebody from a collection of doubtful somebodies would have to get Washington hitters out. The choice to start the game was Jose Urquidy, whose name is as difficult to spell and pronounce as his pitches proved to be to hit. He’s 24, but hadn’t pitched a game above class A ball before this season began. Through the end of June, he was in AA Corpus Christie, Texas. He didn’t turn out to be another Randy Dobnak, the Twins’ sacrificial offering in game 2 of the Division Series against the Yankees. Urquidi lasted 5 innings, which even Zack Greinke had failed to do on Friday night. The Mazatlan, Mexico native gave up no runs, 2 hits and walked nobody. He managed 67 pitches, his high since September 27. In 2 prior postseason outings he hadn’t passed 47 pitches. He became the 6th rookie in 50 years to have a scoreless starting outing in the World Series, the last being Walker Buehler a year ago. Urquidy’s name joins that of Fernando Valenzuela as the first two Mexican natives to be the winning pitcher in a World Series game.
Urquidy was given the advantage in the very first inning. In the visitor’s half, following a strikeout by George Springer, the next 4 Astros all put up base hits off the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin. These names are all too familiar, especially to Yankee fans. Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley singled, followed by RBI base knocks from Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. All 4 hits happened in a span of 7 pitches. Bregman had been a nonexistent 1 for 13 in the first 3 games. Now he had a hit and an RBI and he wasn’t finished.
With Urquidy cruising, Robinson Chirinos struck in the 4th inning, unloading a no-doubter 2-run home run to make it 4–0 Astros. At the time, He was the only man to have multiple home runs in this World Series. 9 were hit before his second wallop, all by different batters. That fact would also change, given time.
The last of the sixth inning was the one chance the Nationals would get. Urquidy’s needle had reached E, so he was replaced by Josh James. The first Astro reliever walked two of the 3 men he saw. Will Harris got the next call. He gave up an infield hit, loading the bases for Juan Soto who had turned 21 just the day before. After 3 hits in game 1, he hasn’t had a hit since. He got an RBI on an infield grounder, h ardly what the Nats needed from their cleanup hitter with the bases juiced and one out. The rally died there.
Scenting blood, the Astros pounced in their next atbat, with some help from the Nats’ bull pen. Tanner Raney walked two of his 3 batters, and instead of Daniel Hudson, the call went out for Fernando Rodney. Like another famous Rodney, this one got no respect. Michael Brantley singled. With the bases full, Alex Bregman stepped to the dish. The night before, Michael Brantley had been intentionally walked to get to Bregman. It worked as he didn’t get a hit. Bregman, who had driven home a run earlier, wouldn’t be stopped this time. He sent an enormous home run out of the lot, the first World Series grand slam since Addison Russell of the Cubs hit one 3 years ago. Bregman had hit his second home run of the World Series, joining Chirinos in that category. With his home run, That was that for the Nationals and the game itself.
The Astros have made as startling a reversal as I’ve seen in decades. After being slaughtered in game 2, I wondered if beating the Yankees in such breathtaking fashion had taken the starch out of the Astros, much as Muhammad Ali was never the same after his third fight with Joe Frazier. But as Vince McMahon would say, “Wait just a minute!” I don’t know if the Astros were shown the old John Wayne movie “True Grit,” but they showed they had courage, which is what the term “grit” meant in that famous film. They proved theirs by taking games 3 and 4. Now, they’re back to their aces, and at leasg for game 5 their top two relievers-Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna-are rested and ready to go. All eyes will be on the two starters-Mad Max Scherzer for Washington and “Cole Train” Gerrit Cole. The nickname goes back to his Pirates’ days. In game 1, the Cole Train looked more like the legendary Old 97, or the train Casey Jones drove to destruction in another American folk song. Neither of those songs had a happy ending, and neither did Cole’s game 1 performance. All that will be forgotten if he shuts down the Nationals the way he did the Yankees in the ALCS. Win or lose, Houston has done enough to bring the World Series back to Texas later this week. As of now the forecast for tonight looks better than it did over the last couple of days. If that continues, some 43,000 are expected for the Nationals’ final home game of 2019, and what a matchup it should be.0