MLB

Nationals force World Series decider after beating Astros

By Sports Desk October 29, 2019

There will be a deciding Game 7 in the MLB World Series after the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2.

With the Astros on the cusp of their second World Series title in three seasons, the Nationals won Game 6 to stay alive on Tuesday.

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg tossed 8.3 innings of one-run ball to earn the win, while Justin Verlander gave up three runs in five innings to be saddled with yet another World Series loss. He is now 0-6 in his career.

Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Adam Eaton all homered for Washington to force a series decider on Wednesday.

It will be Zack Greinke against Max Scherzer midweek.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' World Series-tying Game 6 win over the Astros

Strasburg has surpassed Verlander

Make absolutely no mistake, this game was somewhat of a passing of the torch. And while that normally consists of one team-mate passing the baton to another – in this case, it was one postseason star from one league handing it to another man in another league. Verlander is still a very good pitcher, but Strasburg is just better.

The easiest way to demonstrate it is this: Strasburg can get an out with any pitch he throws. And he can do it in the zone. Verlander still can get outs with all his pitches, but he needs batters to chase now. Strasburg does not. He can throw anything he wants at a batter and dare him to hit it. Verlander simply cannot.

To reiterate: does this mean Verlander cannot get guys out on pitches in the zone? Absolutely not. He certainly can. Strasburg can just do it better. That is why he dominated an Astros team that do not chase pitches out of the zone in this series and it is why Rendon went on a 10-pitch at-bat in which he walked against Verlander.

Strasburg is better than Verlander right now and anyone watching the two men pitch in Game 6 saw that. 

An issue that was forgotten about this year in Houston was a problem Astros hitters had with the batter's eye in centre field at Minute Maid Park. This was an issue that saw Houston score 51 runs less in 2018 at home during the regular season than they did on the road. Houston posted an OPS+ of 99 at home in 2018 versus 116 on the road.

It was an issue people forgot about this season because the Astros were so good at home, going 60-21 at Minute Maid Park and scoring 68 more runs at home than they did on the road. But with the way the ball is flying differently in the postseason, we wonder if the problem has returned. We say that only to suggest that mentally, Houston might be overthinking it at home.

Houston brought up the fact the batter's eye was a problem last season on multiple occasions, and we have to wonder whether it is causing issues again. Houston are struggling to hit — and win — at home. The Astros are now 0-3 in this series on home soil while scoring nine runs. Houston are scoring 2.66 runs per game at home this postseason and 4.5 on the road.

And while they did win two of three in the American League Championship Series at home, they scored just nine runs. Now, some of this must be the pitching Houston have faced at Minute Maid Park, but for a team that scored 6.03 runs per game at home this term, one has to wonder. It could also be that the Astros are simply trying too hard to homer into the Crawford Boxes which they have had issues with before. "I don't know if it's subconsciously we see the [short left-field] porch, the Crawford Boxes [at Minute Maid Park] and try to hit the ball out of the ballpark," manager A.J. Hinch said in 2018. "It's weird, it's very unusual."

Are the Astros struggling with hitting at their own ballpark now that they know it is tougher to hit with the baseball?

The annual "Verlander should be furious with the line-up" takeaway

Pitcher wins are virtually pointless in baseball. And yes, this is a new-age sentence, we know, but the simple fact is — unless in a National League ballpark — pitchers cannot contribute runs. So, a pitcher can only win a game if his team supports him. 

The Astros consistently have failed to support Verlander over the last three postseasons. With Houston's "mammoth" two-run output on Tuesday, the Astros have scored 16 runs in six playoff starts in 2019 (2.67 RPG). What is worse, in 15 postseason starts for the Astros in his career, Houston have scored 60 runs (4.00 RPG), but they have scored one run or less four times, two or less six times and three or less eight times. 

It does not matter how much of a Hall of Fame resume a guy has, that is asking a pitcher to do far too much. Verlander gave up three runs in Game 6. He gave up four in Game 2. That is more than enough for a team with the second highest WRC+ in the history of baseball behind only the 1927 Yankees. Verlander should be very displeased with his team-mates right now.

Related items

  • On this day in sport: Shearer makes his mark, one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott debuts On this day in sport: Shearer makes his mark, one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott debuts

    Few players have had an impact on Premier League football like Alan Shearer, the greatest goalscorer the competition has seen.

    The former England striker started out at Southampton in the old First Division, before going on to enjoy goal-laden spells with Blackburn Rovers and the club he supported as a boy, Newcastle United.

    His impact was significant at all three, but his legacy is arguably felt the most at St. James' Park, where he spent the final 10 seasons of his career.

    His goalscoring feats began on this day in 1988, but April 8 has also proven momentous in baseball, as we examine below.

    1974 - Hank Aaron overtakes Babe Ruth

    For many years after Babe Ruth's retirement in 1935, his record of 714 home runs looked unbeatable until 'Hammerin' Hank' Aarons became the first to surpass Ruth on April 8 ,1974. He might have done so earlier were it not for racially motivated death threats so prolific that his team – the Atlanta Braves – had to hire him a secretary to sift through it. The US Postal Service believe he received more than 930,000 pieces – positive and negative – in 1973. He broke Ruth's record against the Los Angeles Dodgers and later retired on 755, a record which stood for 33 years until Barry Bonds went beyond it in August 2007.

    1988 - Alan Shearer makes his mark

    Over 400 goals in professional football at international and club level,  it all started for Shearer on April 8, 1988. Then at Southampton, a 17-year-old Shearer had already made some substitute appearances, but with Arsenal visiting The Dell, he was afforded a first league start. In a 4-2 win, Shearer scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest player to do so in top-flight history at 17 years and 240 days old. He went on to make a habit of setting new records over the following 18 years.

    1989 - One-handed pitcher Jim Abbott debuts

    There aren't many sports where manual dexterity is more crucial than in baseball. That said, Jim Abbott enjoyed a successful career in MLB despite only being born with his left hand. He pitched for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, starting out for the former, where he made his debut 31 years ago.

  • Coronavirus: MLB insists nothing decided amid reports season will start in May Coronavirus: MLB insists nothing decided amid reports season will start in May

    Major League Baseball insists it has not settled on any plans for how to begin the 2020 season, amid reports the league had set its sights on starting in May with all 30 teams playing games in Arizona in empty stadiums.

    ESPN reported that games would be held in the greater Phoenix area and take place at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as 10 spring training facilities and possibly other nearby fields.

    Players, coaches and other team officials would be isolated in local hotels and only travel to and from the stadium sites in an effort to avoid spreading coronavirus.

    Federal officials reportedly support the plan that would allow MLB to become the first professional sport in the United States to return, but the league issued a statement on Tuesday saying nothing has been decided.

    "MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so," the statement said.

    "While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.

    "While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players' Association.

    "We are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus."

    MLB pushed back the start of the season from March 26 until at least mid-May and suspended spring training games on March 12 following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation not to conduct events of 50 or more people for a minimum of eight weeks.

  • MLB Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline dead at 85 MLB Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline dead at 85

    Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline has died at the age of 85.

    The cause of death was not immediately available.

    Kaline spent his entire 22-year major league career with the Tigers, retiring after the 1974 season, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs with 399 and games played with 2,834.

    He was an 18-time All-Star and helped lead the Tigers to the 1968 World Series championship.

    Born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 19, 1934, he made his Tigers debut as an 18-year-old in 1953. Two years later, he hit .340 to become the youngest player to win an American League batting title. He finished his career with 3,007 hits and a .297 batting average, hitting .300 or better in nine seasons.

    In addition to being one of the top hitters of his time, Kaline was also considered one of baseball's top fielders, winning 10 Gold Glove Awards as a right fielder.

    He never won a Most Valuable Player Award, finishing second in voting twice and third once, but was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1980, garnering 88 percent of the votes.

    After his retirement, he worked as a Tigers broadcaster from 1976-2001, and he is one of six Tigers to be immortalised with a statue at Comerica Park.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.