Houston Astros

Astros should be confident despite trailing in World Series

The Houston Astros, with a combination of key hits and clutch pitching, have new life in the World Series after beating the Washington Nationals in Game 3

The Houston Astros finally came through with hits when it matters most on Friday and now are right back in the World Series.

The Astros beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in Game 3 at Nationals Park thanks in large part to four hits with runners in scoring position. They had been 8-for-63 in their last eight postseason games coming into tonight. Michael Brantley had two RBI singles after doubles by Jose Altuve, and Josh Reddick opened the scoring with a bloop hit to shallow left off Anibal Sanchez after Carlos Correa had doubled down the left-field line in the second inning.

Houston had lost the opening two games of the Fall Classic at home to the Nationals and faced the prospect of falling down three games to none if the offense remained cold and Zack Greinke couldn’t turn in a quality start when the series shifted to Washington. The lineup did their job, and while Greinke wasn’t at his sharpest, he did manage to get out of multiple jams and gave up one run in 4.1 innings.

With new life in the series, the Astros must be feeling that they actually have the advantage going forward. The win in Game 3 ensured that Gerrit Cole will get a chance at redemption in Game 5. Cole was charged with five runs on eight hits in seven innings back in Game 1 while striking out six. It was the most hits he’s allowed since April 20, the most runs since May 22, and the fewest strikeouts since Aug. 1. Most importantly, it was his first loss since May.

Beating Cole once in a series is difficult enough; the Astros will take their chances that the Nationals can’t do it again. After him comes Justin Verlander, who took the loss in Game 2, for a potential Game 6 back in Houston. It was only the third time all season the Astros had lost back-to-back games started by Cole and Verlander.

And, even if the Astros lose Game 4 after handing the ball to rookie right-hander Jose Urquidy and a host of relievers, they still have Greinke to follow up Cole and Verlander. While he didn’t get the win on Friday, Greinke is 4-0 and improved his ERA against the Nationals to 0.55 in five starts since 2015.

Suddenly, it’s the Nationals who are facing the questions of what went wrong with their offense. They went 0-10 with runners in scoring position in Game 3, the first team to go hitless in that many at-bats in the World Series since 2008. Juan Soto went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on his 21st birthday, while Anthony Rendon only has two hits in 13 at-bats this series.

The Astros, meanwhile, are finding their form. Altuve is now 6-15 (.400) in the series. Brantley is 5-16 (.417). What a difference one game makes, as the Astros went from down and out after the first two games to all of a sudden making the series interesting with their Game 3 win.

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But that’s the magic of October baseball, where momentum is only as strong as the next day’s starting pitcher. Or, in this case, how a team performs when presented with the chance to put runs on the board. Unlike Games 1 and 2, it’s the Astros who have the momentum now.

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