October 23, 2019

WS2: Nationals 12, Astros 3

Nationals - 200 000 631 - 12 14  2
Astros    - 200 000 001 -  3  9  1

The Astros may have played their last game in Houston until March 26, 2020. The Nationals broken the game open in the seventh, sending 10 men to the plate, as the lower half of the lineup did most of the damage. Then Washington tacked on four more runs just to see how many disgusted fans they could drive out of the park before the final out.

The Nationals scored 17 runs in the first two games, the most by a road team in the World Series in nearly six decades. In 1960, the Yankees scored 20 runs in the first two games in Pittsburgh. New York outscored the Pirates 55-27 in that delightful World Series, but lost in seven games! Thank you, Bill Mazerowski!

Five Washington players had two hits and four players scored two runs. The Nationals hit three home runs, one in each of the last three innings. Kurt Suzuki snapped a 2-2 tie by leading off the seventh inning against Justin Verlander (6-7-4-3-6, 107) with a dong. Suzuki (the first player born in Hawaii to hit a WS HR) had been 2-for-25 in the postseason before that at-bat. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out in his first three trips to the plate, but then drove in three runs with two singles.

The Nats were up 2-0 before the Astros had recorded an out. Verlander began the game by walking Trea Turner on four pitches, only the third time in Verlander's career (12,888 batters at that point, as a starter) that he threw four straight balls to the first batter of a game. Adam Eaton lined a single past the third baseman. Anthony Rendon brought both runners home by knocking an 0-2 pitch off the left field wall for a double. Verlander has now allowed nine first-inning runs this postseason, the most for any pitcher in any postseason in MLB history; that factoid is presented with the necessary caveat that a team now can potentially play 20 postseason games when teams before 1969 played a maximum of only seven.

Stephen Strasburg (6-7-2-1-7, 114) also allowed two runs in the first. Jose Altuve had doubled with one out, but he was thrown out trying to steal third on the first pitch to Michael Brantley. Strasburg wasahea dof Brantley 0-2, but the count went full and the Astros left fielder singled to center. Then Alex Bregman drilled an inside changeup over the wall in left-center, tying the game at 2-2.

And that's the way the score remained for a while. The Astros had runners on first and third with two outs in the third (thanks to an error and a single), but Bregman grounded into a force play. Yuri Gurriel doubled with one down in the sixth, but Strasburg intentionally walked Yonder Alvarez and got the next two hitters, Carlos Correa, on a popup, and pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker, on a called third strike.

Verlander had tamed the Nats for five innings, allowing only one baserunner past first. (He also threw a ball that caromed off his left shin.) But Suzuki gave Washington the lead and when Verlander walked Victor Robles, he was pulled. Ryan Pressly walked Turner before getting two quick outs, a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners to second and third and a popup to shallow center. Juan Soto was walked intentionally - Houston's first intentional walk of the 2019 season! - and that apparently caused the Astros' roof to fall in.

Howie Kendrick grounded a ball to Bregman's left. The Houston third baseman bobbled it and never made a play. For unknown reasons, it was ruled a single. 4-2. Cabrera lined a single to center, bringing in two more runs. 6-2. Pressly threw a wild pitch, again putting Nats at second and third. Ryan Zimmerman tapped a slow roller towards third. Bregman ran in, barehanded the ball, and threw it wildly past first base. 8-2. Josh James was asked to get the third out and he did.

Robles began the eighth by striking out - but reaching first base on a passed ball. After Turner fanned, Adam Eaton went deep. 10-2. Rendon made the second out, but Soto walked and Kendrick singled. Hector Rondon came in and gave up a run-scoring single to Cabrera. 11-2. Michael A. Taylor, who had taken over in center in the bottom of the eighth, saw one pitch from Chris Devenski in the ninth - and he cranked it over the left-center fence. 12-2.

Martin Maldonado hit a solo shot with one out in the bottom of the ninth, which prompted more cheering from the home crowd that I expected, since the Astros were still down by nine runs with two outs remaining. Houston put two more runners on, but Jake Marisnick grounded out to end the game.

Fernando Rodney relieved Strasburg in the seventh. At 42 years, 219 days, he's the oldest reliever to pitch in a World Series game in 32 years (Joe Niekro (42-349), 1987 Twins, Game 4).

The Nationals have won eight consecutive postseason games, tying a major league record first set by the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Six of the eight wins have been on the road. The Nats will be home for the their next three games, however. They can avoid another trip to Texas by simply winning two of the next three games.

Teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead by winning both games on the road have won 10 of 13 World Series.

Stephen Strasburg / Justin Verlander

The Astros left 11 men on base in Game 1, including the bases loaded in both the third and eighth innings.

Houston led the major leagues in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, highest walk rate, Weighted On-Base Average, and wRC+ this year, but they have a weak .213/.293/.362 batting line this month. With RATS, the Astros are hitting .185/.248/.348.

Mike Petriello writes that .596 RATS OPS is "more or less the line that Baltimore's Chris Davis put up this year, .179/.276/.326, .601. That's not what you want." He adds that "it's one of the weakest postseason lines with runners in scoring positions that we've ever seen".

Since 1969, there have been 88 postseason teams with at least 100 plate appearances with runners on base. The Astros (.185/.248/.348/.596) are: 87th in average, 88th in on-base, 71st in slugging, and 86th in OPS.

Among those 88 teams, the Astros' 260-point dropoff in OPS from the regular season (.856) to the postseason (.596) is the largest of all time:
-.260 (2019 Astros     from .856 to .596)
-.255 (1995 Mariners   from .854 to .599)
-.181 (1974 Dodgers    from .753 to .572)
-.164 (2013 Cardinals  from .865 to .701)
-.164 (2015 Blue Jays  from .839 to .675)
Yonder Álvarez (.107/.219/.107 in his last eight games), Alex Bregman (.091/.333/.182 with RATS this October), and Yuli Gurriel (.229/.255/.333 in October) are three notable culprits.


betterthanthealternative said...

Go Nats!

the bus driver said...

Les Expos de Montréal!

David Cho said...

Go Nats!!!!

(Yeah, I am still salty from the 2018 WS).