The most miserable weekend in the history of Major League Baseball in Washington is over and it’s left the Nationals staggered on the side of a street once leading to their first-ever World Series championship.
That’s one, two, three strikes and Nationals are out after the Houston Astros recovered from losing the first two games at home by never trailing after any of the 27 innings they played on the road.
And really, does anyone really believe the Astros are capable of losing another two straight at Minute Maid Park?
“We’re really good,” said Astros reliever Joe Smith. “And we know we’re really good. Now, we’ve just got to prove it — one more time.”
You knew it wasn’t Washington’s day when Max Scherzer, the bulldog righthander scheduled to start Game 5 on Sunday, had to say “no mas” after waking up unable to move his pitching arm.
Diagnosed as spasms in the neck and upper right trapezius, all the Nationals trainers could do was administer a shot of cortisone and then hope Scherzer recovers well enough to factor into Game 7 – if there is a Game 7.
“Moment I wake, I couldn’t get out of bed,” Scherzer said. “I basically just fell out of bed. Picked myself up with my left arm, and I was moving around, just couldn’t even move my [right] arm. I just knew at that point I was in a really bad spot.”
That left Nationals manager Dave Martinez with only one real option and that was to plug Joe Ross into the start against Gerrit Cole, this generation’s Nolan Ryan. And it just didn’t work out.
Ross, who was 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA in 27 appearances, gave up homers to Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa. Cole was Cole, striking out nine on Sunday to give him 47 in the postseason. And the Astros won easily, 7-1.
No team since the 1996 New York Yankees has lost the first two games at home and gone on to win the World Series. If you were watching Fox’s telecast, you could tell John Smoltz, who was pitching for the Braves that season, still has nightmares about it.
The Astros are just the second team playing in the 2-3-2 World Series format, (the Yankees against the Dodgers in 1949) to win all three of the middle games on the road without trailing.
What’s more, the Astros held the Nationals to just one run in each of their three home games, the first time ever the visiting team during the middle three games of a 2-3-2 World Series allowed one run or fewer in all three contests.
MLB.com rolled out a series of head-shaking statistics illustrating just how rare this World Series, unspectacular in every other aspect, has been.
Did you know this is just the third World Series in which the road team has won each of the first five games? It’s only happened once since 1906 and that was during the ’96 Yankees-Braves series. No World Series has seen the road team win each of the first six contests and they’ve been playing these things since 1903.
Outscored 19-3 in the three games in Washington, the Nationals are now in a terrible batting slump. They hit only .175 at home, 132 points lower than they did in Games 1 and 2 in Houston. They were 1-of-21 with runners in scoring position.
Here’s some more bad news: No team has ever won four road games in a World Series, so the Nationals would have to be the first to win it all.
“One win away, and we’ll see a dream (come true) for everybody. So we’re excited,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
Are the Astros capable of blowing this? Not likely. They know how to win. The Astros have won 100 games three seasons in row – 101 in 2017, 103 last season and 107 this season. No team in the history of baseball has ever increased its win total over three straight 100-win campaigns.
Since Opening Day 2017, these Astros are 136 games over .500 (311-175). During those seasons, their run differential is +739. According to STATS, the last team to do it was the 1942-44 Cardinals (+761). As it is, +739 ranks in the Top 10 all-time since 1900.
“You’ve got to want it,” said Correa. “And you’ve got to play like you want it. It’s not about saying it, because words don’t mean anything. You’ve got to show up to the field and play like you really want it. And I think you do that through the energy, through the passion, through the effort that you show, day in and day out. And I think in these last three games, we’ve shown that.”