Sunday, October 27, 2019

World Series Game Four

What surprised me the most, during the Nats' victories in the first two games of the World Series, was how efficient the Nats had been on offense.  To put those games in perspective, here were the Nats' first six victories in the post-season:

10/01/19:  Washington 4, Milwaukee 3
10/04/19:  Washington 4, Los Angeles 2
10/07/19:  Washington 6, Los Angeles 1
10/09/19:  Washington 7, Los Angeles 3 (10) (was 3-3 after 9 innings)
10/11/19:  Washington 2, St. Louis 0
10/12/19:  Washington 3, St. Louis 1

Then the Cardinals collapsed, and the Nats rolled by 8-1 and 7-4.  But in five of their first six wins, the Nats scored four runs or less in regulation.  After 7 innings of the wild card game, the Nats had only one run.  The same was true after 7 innings of Game Five against the Dodgers.  In short, this is a team with a limited offense that was winning primarily due to extraordinary pitching.

Then they buried the Cardinals in the last two games of the NLCS.  Then they put up five runs on Gerrit Cole in Game One, and 12 runs on Justin Verlander and the Astros' bullpen in Game Two.  The two Cardinals' games could be explained by ennui for St. Louis.  But the two results against Houston were stunning -- the Nats' hadn't shown that type of offensive production against all-star pitching all year -- or really, ever.

Of course, at the time you could think, "Well, maybe they've had some sort of breakthrough, or maybe the American League isn't as good as we thought."  But it now appears that Houston just didn't have a scouting report on the Nats.  Because since the Astros had an off day, their pitchers have toyed with the Nats.  So far, Houston and Washington have played 18 innings in Nationals Park.  In those 18 innings, the Nats have managed only two runs.

Yesterday was particularly frustrating for Natstown.  It was the only game in the whole series where Washington clearly had an edge on the mound.  The Nats were starting Patrick Corbin -- a two-time All Star who went 14-7 in the regular season.  Houston went with rookie Jose Urquidy, who had only seven starts in the regular season.  In fact, Houston had designated this as a "bullpen" game, meaning that they really only expected Urquidy to throw a few innings before turning things over to the pen.  In fact, he went five full innings, allowing only two hits and no runs.  The Astros' bullpen then allowed only one run in the last four innings.

Meanwhile, Corbin was terrible.  The top of the order smacked him around in the first inning, putting up two early runs on four consecutive singles by Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Jose Gurriel.  Then in the top of the fourth, Robinson Chirinos hit his second home run in two nights -- a two-run shot that gave the Astros a four-run lead and effectively ended the game.

Not wanting to waste any of their good pitchers in a lost cause, the Nats used the cannon fodder portion of their bullpen (which is most of it) to complete the game once Corbin had gone six innings.  Houston whacked those guys around for four more runs on a grand slam by Bregman, and Houston walked away with an easy 8-1 win.

So we have played four games, and the road team has won every time.  Here's what it looks like:

10/22/19:  Washington 5, Houston 4 (at Houston)
10/23/19:  Washington 12, Houston 3 (at Houston)
10/25/19:  Houston 4, Washington 1 (at Washington)
10/26/19:  Houston 8, Washington 1 (at Washington)

And so tonight we will see the final game of the year to be played in Nats' Park, as the season will conclude in Houston.  The Nats' are clearly outgunned in this series, and are pretty lucky to still have a chance.  But it's not a very good chance.  They will have to do what they did against the Dodgers -- rely on Scherzer and Strasburg to hold down the Houston offense, and pray that somehow, somewhere, they get enough offense to squeeze out two wins.

I do not expect that to happen.  The Astros now know what the Nationals can and cannot do, and I think it's just a matter of time before Jose Altuve -- who has been the difference in these playoffs -- is celebrating another title.

Of course, I didn't think the Nats would make the playoffs, beat the Brewers, beat the Dodgers, beat the Cardinals, or win any games against Houston -- so they've proven me wrong before.

7:07 PM Central:  Houston at Washington (series tied 2-2).


  1. Tonight will be a very emotional game for lots of Nats fans. It will probably be the last appearance by Ryan Zimmerman as a Nationals' player at Nats' Park. That's probably also true for Anthony Rendon. Between them, those guys have played the vast majority of games at third base for the Nats since 2006. They were cornerstones of the Nats' trips to the post-season in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and this year. They have made all sorts of heroic plays in the post-season to get the Nats within two games of the world championship. And they are exactly the type of hard-working nice guys that DC fans prefer above all other kinds of athlete. It will not be easy for a lot of us to see them go.

  2. Whatever happens, I'm very happy that I lived to see World Series baseball in Washington, D.C.

    For the record, the World Series hasn't been to Baltimore since 1983.

  3. This morning it rained hard all over the D.C. area. But it started to clear up around noon, and now we have an absolutely clear sky -- perfect weather for the last game of the year in D.C.

    For me personally, this has been my favorite baseball season since 1988, and I'm sorry to see it end. But I'm really happy for my fellow Nats fans who get decent weather.

  4. Scherzer is injured and can't go tonight, so the Nats are going with Joe Ross (4-4 ERA of 5.48).

    That's pretty much it for this game. Houston will score at least five runs in the first three innings, and the Nats can't get five runs off of Cole and the Astros bullpen again. So the Astros will be up 3-2 going to Houston.

  5. Now the Nats have to hope that Strasburg can beat Verlander in Game Six, and that somehow Scherzer is healthy enough to pitch Game Seven against Zach Greinke.

  6. To be honest, I actually like the Nats' chances better this way. They weren't going to beat Cole a second time in any event. Why not concede this game, give Scherzer and your other good pitchers a chance to rest, and then bet everything on the last two games?

  7. Plus I think the Nats really benefit from the DH more than Houston does. The Astros have so many good hitters that they don't really need the DH. But putting Howie Kendrick at DH makes the Nats' lineup significantly better.