MLB

Astros rout Nationals to level World Series

By Sports Desk October 26, 2019

The Houston Astros crushed the Washington Nationals 8-1 in Game 4 to level the MLB World Series.

After reasserting themselves in Game 3 on Friday, the Astros turned in perhaps their most impressive game of the postseason on Saturday.

A starting pitching performance few could have predicted coupled with an offensive breakout from one of their key players saw Houston move level with Washington at 2-2 in the World Series.

Game 5 will be played at Nationals Park on Sunday, with series-opening starters Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer set to take the mound again.

 

Three takeaways from the Astros' Game 4 World Series win over the Nationals

Urquidy cleans up

Most expected Saturday to be a bullpen game for the Astros, with Jose Urquidy merely the first to get the ball, but the rookie ended up outshining every other starter in a pair of star-studded rotations. 

The 24-year-old went five scoreless innings in his first postseason start — and only the eighth of his MLB career overall. That workload matched Scherzer's from Game 1 and represented one more out than Zack Greinke recorded in Game 3. 

And it was not just the unexpected length, it was the quality. Urquidy allowed only a single to Anthony Rendon and a double to Yan Gomes while striking out four and generally kept Washington's line-up off balance across the board, retiring the last nine hitters he faced. 

A.J. Hinch undoubtedly walked into the dugout before Game 4 ready to go to his bullpen early and often, but Urquidy's heroics rendered that unnecessary and could pay off for the Houston relief corps in Game 5 and beyond.

Bregman is back

It is no secret the Astros have ridden their pitching to this point in the postseason, with their offense doing just enough to get by.

Alex Bregman's struggles at the plate had been a big reason for that. While the American League MVP candidate had at least one hit in each of the five Division Series games against the Tampa Bay Rays, he entered Game 4 in a four-for-31 drought (.129) in the ALCS and World Series. 

But Bregman broke out in a big way Saturday, with his first-inning single driving in the Astros' first run and his seventh-inning grand slam off Fernando Rodney serving as the dagger that evened the series. He added a lined single to left in the eighth to cap off a bounceback game. 

The last thing the Nationals wanted to see was Bregman in a groove, and it certainly appears he is finding his way back into one now. 

We're in for quite a finish

Given the abundance of talent on the Houston roster, most of which were around for the run to the title two years ago, not many counted the Astros out after they became the first team in 20 years to drop the first two games of the World Series at home. 

Now that they have maintained the road team's perfect record in the series, we are set up for what should be a fascinating best-of-three to determine a champion. 

It is difficult to dream up better pitching matchups than Cole v Scherzer and Justin Verlander v Stephen Strasburg in the next two games, even if none of that quartet turned in a vintage outing in his first start of the series. Should things get to a Game 7, the Astros certainly would be favoured at home with Greinke on the mound, but we have a long way to go before we get to that point. 

In the meantime, the Nationals will have to find a way to get their bats heated up again after going one for 19 with runners in scoring position in their two home games. But simply getting runners to second and third figures to be awfully difficult with Cole and Verlander in the way. 

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