Wednesday, October 23, 2019

World Series Game One

Well, that was a humdinger last night.  That was the type of game I used to read about when I read "Stars of the Series" back in the third grade.  Here's what happened.

The Astros started Gerrit Cole.  They hadn't lost a game when he took the mound since May.

The Nats went with Max Scherzer, who is probably going to the Hall of Fame.

The Astros jumped all over Scherzer in the first inning, putting their first two runners on base and bringing them home with a two-out double off the left field wall by Yuli Gurriel.  At that point, Houston had to feel very good about its chances.  But Scherzer held them to only those two runs through the first five innings.  It wasn't easy -- Scherzer needed 112 pitches to throw five innings.  The Astros were threatening the whole time.  But Scherzer held them back.

Meanwhile, the Nats -- who were expected to be cold after a week's layoff -- went after Cole unlike any team has done for months.  Ryan Zimmerman smacked a homer to center field in the second.  And in the fourth, Juan Soto blasted an opposite field shot up to the locomotive in deep left field.  Suddenly Cole's lead was gone.  And in the fifth, the Nats put together a nice rally that put them in the lead after Adam Eaton singled.  Two batters later, with two out and two on, Soto returned to the plate.  Cole throw him a whole series of off-speed pitches, but Soto figured out the timing and whacked a double off the left field wall.  Now the Nats were up 5-2.  Howie Kendrick then hit a rocket that looked to score Soto and break the game open -- but Carlos Correa made a leaping catch to end the inning.

Scherzer shut down Houston in the bottom of the 5th, but he was done after that.  The Nats' offense was done as well -- they made no significant offensive threats the rest of the night.  So their beleaguered bullpen had to come up with 12 more outs.  Here's what they did.

In the sixth inning, the Nats used their likely Game Three starter, Patrick Corbin.  He retired the side on 21 pitches without a run.

In the seventh, they went with Tanner Rainey, the worst of the three relievers who they trust in a game they could win.  George Springer greeted him with a homer.  5-3 Nats.  Three batters later, Rainey was gone, having put men on first and second with walks.  In came Daniel Hudson, who had been serving as the Nats' closer in recent weeks.  He got Gurriel to pop up, but then Correa's infield single loaded the bases.  With everyone in Minute Main Park going nuts, Hudson struck out Yordan Alvarez to end the inning.

In the eighth, Hudson yielded a lead-off single to pinch hitter Kyle Tucker.  He retired the next battter, but Springer crushed a double off the right field wall to score Tucker.  5-4 Nats.  At this point, I thought the Nats were sunk, because I thought Jose Altuve would get a hit.  But Hudson got him to line out to right.  That was all for Hudson, and now the Nats brought in Sean Doolittle, who had been their closer until his arm was exhausted in August.  But Doolittle's arm was better now, and he got the last four outs of the game -- in order -- to win it for Washington.

When it was all over, the Nats had thrown 186 pitches to Houston, which gives you a sense of how much trouble Nats' pitchers were in all night.  The game itself took 3 hours and 43 minutes, most of that time full of tension and high drama.  But the Nats avoided those three-run homers that sank the Yankees, and they had a hard-fought 5-4 win.

The Astros won't be too discouraged.  They lost Game One of the 2017 World Series.  And they lost Game One of this year's ALCS against the Yankees.  But tonight's match-up -- featuring Hall of Famer Justin Verlander for Houston and red-hot Stephen Strasburg for the Nats -- has enormous implications for both teams, and I would expect another night of high-level baseball.

Tonight's game:

7:07 P.M. Central:  Washington at Houston (Washington leads 1-0) (FOX)

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