A tie game quickly turned into a blowout as the Washington Nationals scored six runs in the seventh inning to take control of Game 2 on Wednesday.
One big inning in Game 2 on Wednesday may have just put the Washington Nationals two wins away from the franchise’s first World Series title.
The Nationals scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, turning a 2-2 tie into an 8-2 blowout and leaving the Nationals nine outs from taking a 2-0 series lead back to Washington.
Astros starter Justin Verlander had given up two quick runs in the first inning but had settled down from there, holding the Nationals off the scoreboard as he came back out to pitch the seventh. The first batter of the inning, 36-year-old catcher Kurt Suzuki, hit the second pitch, a 93 mph fastball, into the Crawford Boxes in left field to put the Nationals ahead 3-2. Suzuki had been 2-25 this postseason with no RBI. He had never homered in 42 career at-bats against Verlander coming into the game.
Verlander’s night was done after walking Victor Robles on a 3-2 slider that just missed the outside corner. Ryan Pressly, whose status for the World Series was in doubt after appearing to aggravate a knee injury in the ALCS, came out of the bullpen and walked Trea Turner, again on a 3-2 pitch. Washington had runners on third and second after Adam Eaton laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Pressly got Anthony Rendon to fly out to shallow center, preventing Robles from going home.
Hot-hitting Juan Soto, in his last game as a 20-year-old, was then intentionally walked to load the bases, the first free pass the Astros had issued all season. Pressly and the Astros then looked to have gotten out of the inning when Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball to between third base and shortstop. Third baseman Alex Bregman, though, bobbled it and allowed Robles to score the second run of the inning.
With new life in the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera singled to center field to score Soto and Turner. But the Nationals weren’t done there. Ryan Zimmerman hit a slow roller to Bregman who threw the ball away, allowing Kendrick and Cabrera to come home with the Nationals’ fifth and sixth runs of the inning. The Astros hadn’t given up six runs in an inning since a 21-7 loss to the Athletics on Sept. 10.
The Astros went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning as Fernando Rodney, appearing in his first World Series game in 13 years, worked past a lead-off walk to retire the top of the Astros order. Houston, who led the league with 107 wins this season, are now in danger of dropping the first two games of the series at home and having to win at least two of three in Washington. Only three teams, the 1985 Royals, the 1986 Mets, and the 1996 Yankees, managed to win the World Series after losing the first two games at home.
Verlander is also in danger of falling to 0-5 in six career World Series starts. No pitcher in history is winless in the World Series with that many starts. His ERA is now 5.73; only former Dodgers Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine have higher ERAs with at least five starts.
The Nationals will now have a chance to close out the series when they return home for Game 3 in what will be the first World Series game in the nation’s capital since 1933. At least Soto will be old enough to partake in the celebratory champagne by then.