The Washington Nationals came into the World Series as the biggest underdogs since 2007.
Two games in, they’ve let the world know that no one should bet against them.
After besting Gerrit Cole in the opener, Washington took control of the series with an impressive 12-3 victory against Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros in Game 2.
Now the Nationals will head home with a 2-0 series lead and a real chance to clinch the franchise’s first World Series championship at Nationals Park over the weekend.
Winning a championship always requires contributions from expected sources. In Game 2, it was catcher Kurt Suzuki who authored the biggest moment for Washington. His seventh-inning solo home run against Justin Verlander put the Nationals ahead and helped fuel a six-run rally that included a clutch two-out, two-run single from Asdrubal Cabrera and some sloppy play by Houston’s defense. Alex Bregman mishandled two grounders that allowed the inning to continue.
Once the wheels came off, there was no coming back for Houston. In fact, Washington continued pouring it on, scoring four more runs in the eighth and ninth innings on home runs by Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor.
Prior to the seventh inning, Washington’s bats had been quiet since scoring two runs against Verlander on Anthony Rendon’s first-inning double. The sluggish start continued a concerning trend for Verlander. He’s now allowed nine first-inning runs over his five postseason starts, while allowing just four runs over his other 25 1/3 October innings.
The Astros quickly countered Washington’s run thanks to Alex Bregman’s two-run home run in the bottom half against Stephen Strasburg. Bregman had been critical of his 0-for-4 performance in Game 1, but bounced back for one at-bat at least after trying an unusual slump-busting method.
Unfortunately for Houston, Bregman’s struggles resumed immediately after. And then the rest of the team followed.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Kurt Suzuki: The veteran catcher entered Game 2 with one hit in his previous 23 postseason at-bats. He had two on Wednesday. In addition to his go-ahead home run, Suzuki also singled. His defense was also a factor as he potentially saved a run by throwing out Jose Altuve stealing third base in the first inning.
• Stephen Strasburg: It was a grind for Max Scherzer to get through five innings in Game 1. It was a grind for Strasburg to complete six innings in Game 2. The veteran right-hander needed 114 pitches to record 18 outs, but kept his team in the game by stranding five runners over his six innings.
• Asdrubal Cabrera: Another struggling hitter came to life for Washington. Cabrera had been 2-for-13 in October before breaking out with two hits and three RBIs in Game 2.
This was not Justin Verlander’s best moment on a baseball field. But we admire the effort.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Who can stop these Nationals?: The Nationals have now defeated Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the World Series after defeating and demoralizing Clayton Kershaw in the NLDS and sweeping the Cardinals impressive pitching staff in the NLCS. If those pitchers can’t slow the Nationals down, who can?
How do the Astros recover?: The Astros aren’t just in an 0-2 hole, they’re in an 0-2 hole while playing perhaps their worst baseball of the season. Can they get it figured out in time?
Do jersey colors really matter?: We’d like to say no. Then again, the Nationals are now 9-0 this postseason while wearing their navy blue jerseys.
The series shifts to Washington D.C. for the first World Series home game in Nationals history.
The Nationals will call on Anibal Sanchez as their starting pitcher after Patrick Corbin was used in relief in Game 1. Sanchez is coming off a near no-hitter against St. Louis in NLCS Game 1 back on Oct. 11.
The Astros will send veteran Zack Greinke to the hill for his World Series debut. Greinke's had a tough go in three starts this postseason, allowing 10 earned runs in 14 innings. He could give Houston an edge though because he's a very good hitting pitcher.
Game 3 will take place on Friday night at 8:07 p.m. ET.
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