The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. As a result, the Nationals secured both the series win and the championship, the first in their franchise history. Previously, the Nationals had not won so much as a postseason series. Stephen Strasburg was named the Most Valuable Player of the series.
1. Nationals strike late, again
A fair lingering question at this point would be: did the Astros use Gerrit Cole? What about the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg? Neither appeared. Cole warmed, numerous times, but never was inserted into the game. Presumably, based on the short leash for Harris and Osuna’s early entrance, the Astros had designs on deploying Cole in the eighth or ninth inning. Without a lead, A.J. Hinch decided not to bother.
Harris didn’t last long — and neither did the Astros’ lead from that point on. Rather, Harris’ second pitch to Howie Kendrick ended up banging off the foul pole in right field for a two-run homer. Just like that, the Nationals went from trailing by two to up by one.
Davey Martinez, meanwhile, never asked Strasburg to warm. He used Patrick Corbin to serve as a three-inning bridge between Scherzer and Daniel Hudson, who shut down the Astros 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.
2. Greinke, Scherzer mostly deliver
Another Fall Classic first: the Nationals became the first team to ever win four road games in a World Series. The Astros, by the way, had won nearly three-fourths of their home games during the regular season, making the Nationals’ dominance in Houston all the more impressive. The Astros’ came in the bottom of the second, with two runners on and nobody on base. Robinson Chirinos, for whatever reason, tried laying one down. Instead, he popped up to the catcher for an easy out. Scherzer rebounded and retired the next two batters, preventing the Astros from adding to their 1-0 lead. It was an odd decision to say the least.
The Nationals’ victories in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 — and the Astros’ wins in Games 3 through 5 — mean that the road team won every single contest in the World Series for the first time ever.
3. Road team wins, again
We’d be remiss if we didn’t note that both teams laid down questionable bunts. Consider it all fitting for a Nationals team who had to come back in the regular season from a 19-31 start; then again in the Wild Card Game from an eight-inning deficit; then again in the NLDS from a 2-1 series deficit; then again in this series, from a 3-2 deficit. The Nationals didn’t make things easy on themselves often this year, but it didn’t matter — they rose to the occasion and won, time and time again, and were the last team standing when all was said and done.
4. Cole, Strasburg unused
Major League Baseball will now head into the offseason, with the GM Meetings and Winter Meetings. Opening Day 2020 is scheduled for March 26. Until then, congratulations to the Nationals, baseball’s new champions.
Greinke’s performance was, too, high quality. He threw 6 1/3 innings and permitted just two hits, two runs and two walks. He fanned three. Unfortunately, for Greinke, it was the pitchers who came after him that let down the Astros: Harris, Osuna, Joe Smith and Jose Urquidy all gave up hits and/or runs. Ryan Pressly was the exception, and he faced just one batter.
Ditto for Asdrubal Cabrera‘s bunt in the fifth inning that advanced a baserunner in exchange for the second out of the frame. We think Cabrera was trying to push a bunt down the line slash through the shift, it just wasn’t executed as well as he intended. Still, weird. Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez also went unused.
5. Questionable bunts
Later, in the eighth, the Nationals would score an insurance run on a Soto single off Roberto Osuna, and then two more on an Adam Eaton single-plus-error in the ninth. That was all the offense the Nationals needed in order to secure the W.
On paper, the Max Scherzer-Zack Greinke pitching matchup looked like a fine way to close out the series — perhaps not as good as Scherzer-Cole in Game 1, or the subsequent Stephen Strasburg-Justin Verlander bouts, but quite good. The stakes were high enough as it was, yet each pitcher had something to prove: Scherzer that he was healthy, and Greinke that he could bounce back from some rough postseason outings. Both held up their parts of the bargain.
Scherzer’s outing certainly wasn’t vintage or classically dominant. He gutted through five innings, permitting seven hits and walking four while avoiding the big blow. He did give up two runs and only fanned four, but his performance must be looked at in a greater context. Scherzer was scratched from his Game 5 start on Sunday due to neck and back spasms — spasms so bad that he was unable to dress himself and had a hard time moving around. Under that light, what Scherzer did on Wednesday belongs to a different rubric, one that finds his outing praiseworthy.
It wouldn’t be the Nationals in October if they didn’t come from behind to win a game, right? In Game 7, the Nationals trailed by a 2-0 margin into the seventh inning, when Anthony Rendon hit a solo home run off Zack Greinke to cut the lead to one. Greinke would then walk Juan Soto before being lifted in favor of right-handed reliever Will Harris.