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.

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