The Nationals have faced elimination four different times this postseason -- in the NL Wild Card Game against the Brewers, in Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, and again in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night in Houston. So far, they’ve survived all four.
Stephen Strasburg was not at his sharpest in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, as he surrendered a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Jose Altuve and a towering solo home run to Alex Bregman. But the 31-year-old right-hander was able to bear down from there and worked efficiently the rest of the way, throwing 104 pitches over 8 1/3 frames as the visiting Nats forced a series-deciding Game 7 on Wednesday with a massive 7-2 victory in Game 6.
Strasburg racked up seven strikeouts in Tuesday’s outing and now boasts a 1.98 ERA and 47/4 K/BB ratio through 36 1/3 innings in the 2019 postseason. He has a 1.46 ERA in 55 1/3 career postseason frames, and is also tied for the second-most strikeouts all-time in a single postseason with 46. When the Nats made Strasburg the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft out of San Diego State University, these are the kind of numbers and the kind of performances they were hoping for.
Anthony Rendon led the way offensively for Washington, tallying five total RBI. He opened the night’s scoring with a first-inning RBI single through the right side of the infield against a big shift, scoring Trea Turner from second base. The star third baseman then drew a 10-pitch walk off Justin Verlander in the top of the third, fouling off five different pitches during that plate appearance to wear down the veteran right-hander. Rendon came to the plate facing reliever Will Harris in the top of the seventh and belted a two-run homer to left field. Not done yet, he added a two-run double off the right field wall in the top of the ninth.
Not that it’s at the center of his mind at the moment, with Game 7 looming on Wednesday, but Rendon’s asking price in free agency this winter keeps going up and up. Let his agent, Scott Boras, worry about that for now.
Verlander lasted just five innings and tallied only three strikeouts, which will go down as his lowest strikeout total of any outing in 2019. He was at 56 pitches through three, 75 pitches through four, and his pitch count climbed to 93 as he gave up a pair of solo home runs to Adam Eaton and Juan Soto in the top of the fifth. Verlander, for all of his accomplishments over the years, remains winless through seven career starts in the World Series.
The solo shot by Soto had an exit velocity of 111.4 mph and was his third home run in this Fall Classic. He also now has five home runs in the 2019 postseason, the most in MLB history by a player age 21 years or younger.
As for Eaton, he now has two home runs in the 2019 World Series and is the first player in MLB history to put together multiple games in the same postseason with both a sacrifice bunt and a homer.
There was controversy in the top of the seventh inning Tuesday when Trea Turner was called out for apparently impeding Yuli Gurriel from catching a ball in front of the first base bag. Turner ran straight to first after hitting a chopper in front of the mound, never deviating from his original path, but he was technically inside the first base line and the call was upheld upon review. The review covered whether Turner was out or safe, not the judgement call by home plate umpire Sam Holbrook, as judgement calls of that sort are not reviewable under the current rules. Rendon rendered the argument moot, as he is wont to do, by cranking a two-run homer one batter later. That didn’t calm Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who got ejected between innings after a heated exchange with the umpiring crew. It was the first time a manager had been ejected from a World Series game since Braves skipper Bobby Cox got run in 1996.
There have been complaints that this World Series has lacked in excitement, but that argument also now feels moot as we head to Game 7 following a drama-filled Game 6. Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Nationals on Wednesday after getting scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start on Sunday due to neck spasms. He threw in the outfield on Tuesday afternoon in Houston and told reporters, simply, “I’m good.” Zack Greinke will be on the bump for the Astros. Really, though, it’ll be all-hands-on-deck for both clubs.
For the fourth time in the last six years, the Fall Classic has gone the distance.
What more could you ask for as a baseball fan?
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