Washington Nationals: Strasburg, stifling in Game Six

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals delivers the pitch against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals delivers the pitch against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals ace holds Houston to two runs and five hits as Washington evens the Series at three games each

The 2019  World Series roadshow re-opened for a second run in Houston Tuesday, this time with Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg in the starring role. There will be an encore – and climactic — showing of this baseball drama on Wednesday.

When his Nationals teammates needed him the most, Strasburg silenced the home town Houston Astros 7-2 on just five hits, evening the Series at three games a side. The 2019 Series thus becomes the first in history in which the road team has won all of the first six games.

Strasburg was aided and abetted by the Nationals offense, which awakened against Houston starter Justin Verlander from its lengthy nap at home. Three different Nats – Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto – homered, and Rendon drove in five of his team’s seven runs.

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Strasburg, however, was the night’s star, He ran his Series record to 2-0, and his 2019 post-season record to 5-0. He has a 1.98 ERA this post-season, and a 2.45 World Series ERA.

It didn’t look that way at the outset. After Washington scored a run in the first inning on Rendon’s opposite-field single, which sent Trea Turner home, Strasburg gave up two quick runs. George Springer doubled high off the left-field wall, scored on Jose Altuve’s sacrifice fly, then Alex Bregman put one in the Crawford boxes to put Houston on top 2-1.

With Verlander retiring seven consecutive Nationals hitters, that 2-1 margin held into the middle innings. The Nats got runners at first and second in the fourth, but Verlander struck out Victor Robles and retired Yan Gomes on a fly ball to end the inning.

In the fifth, however, the Eaton and Soto home runs put Washington in front. Houston made its best run at Strasburg in the bottom of the inning when Josh Reddick singled with one out and Springer doubled him to third. But Strasburg fanned Altuve on three offspeed pitches, then got Michael Brantley on an easy grounder to Turner at short.

The game nearly turned ugly in the seventh. With Yan Gomes at first, Turner hit a weak grounder that Astros reliever Brad Peacock fielded and threw toward first.

The ball hit Turner’s leg and Turner knocked the glove off Yuli Gurriel’s hand as he ran through first. But as Turner turned and broke for second, plate umpire Sam Holbrook called Turner out for interference.

Nats manager Dave Martinez vehemently protested Holbrook’s call – and eventually was ejected. Following a lengthy discussion among umpires on-site and in New York about the specific wording of the interference rule, Holbrook upheld his own decision,

Because that call changed the situation from runners at second and third, nine out, to the runner at first, one out, the call might in other circumstances have been pivotal to the Series outcome. As it was, the call will be nothing more than a Hot Stove League discussion point. Two batters later, Rendon’s homer extended Washington’s lead to 5-2, and in the ninth Rendon doubled two more runs home to set the 7-2 final.

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The Astros are expected to start Zack Greinke, their mid-season trade acquisition, Wednesday. As for the Washington Nationals, Martinez said after the game that his scratched fifth game starter, Max Scherzer, will make the start.