Nats at Astros Series Story
The Nats could have folded after they lost game two to the defending MLB champions in gut-wrenching fashion. The Nats could have folded after they lost another lead in the bottom of the ninth in game three. But the Nationals would not allow themselves to crumble and won their second road series finale in row. Washington finished a six-game road trip at two contenders with two wins and four losses.
Game 1: ASTROS 6, Nats 1
After a lead-off walk to Lane Thomas, Luis Garcia worked a full count. Thomas ran on the pitch and Garcia grounded the ball to second base just before Thomas reached the bag. All Astros shortstop Mauricio Dubon had to do was scoop and throw to first base for a double play that he couldn’t have practiced any better. It was that kind of night for the Washington Nationals.
Making his return to the scene of his World Series game seven win versus the Houston Astros, Patrick Corbin was on the mound for Washington. Corbin (L, 4-7) threw more than half of his 91 pitches for strikes. But his groundouts to air-outs evened out 4-4. By comparison, Astros starter Hunter Brown’s GO/AO was 10-1. Brown didn’t give up a run in seven innings.
Half of Corbin’s four hits allowed were home runs. Corbin struggled with his control as his five walks proved. But he also struck out five. Corbin made quick work of the Astros in the fourth inning retiring all three batters he faced. The game was scoreless through four innings. But that would all change in the home fifth when Patrick gave up two solo home runs and Houston took a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the seventh inning, Dominic Smith popped a ball into one of the deepest parts of Minute Maid Park. But Jake Myers made a terrific catch against the center field wall. The Astros hit four home runs and turned three double plays in the first seven innings that propelled them to victory.
Mason Thompson was the only DC pitcher to not give up a HR or walk as he pitched a clean sixth inning that included two strikeouts. The Texas native threw 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes to the delight of family and friends in attendance.
Chad and Thad = Bad
Chad Kuhl and Thad Ward each gave up solo shots and two runs each as the Astros pulled away in the seventh and eighth innings. They each walked a batter giving the Nats a total of seven free passes on the night. By contrast, the Houston relievers gave up no walks, although Hunter allowed three.
After two outs in the eighth inning, the Nats finally got on the scoresheet. Lane Thomas (2-3, BB) doubled, and Luis Garcia (1-3, BB) singled him home.
Game 2: ASTROS 5, Nationals 4
The Nats stranded two runners on two hits in the first inning. By contrast, after hitting a batter, Nats starter Josiah Gray gave up a two-out two-RBI double to Jose Abreu. The Nats eked out a run in the top of the fifth when Dominic Smith (2-4, 3B, RBI) doubled, moved to third on a sac fly, and scored on a groundout by CJ Abrams.
Bobby Dynamite has a Busy Night
Abreu extended the Houston lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning with a solo rocket up into the train tracks above the left field wall. The next batter did the same thing to make the score Astros 4, Nats 0.
Despite two bad innings and two home runs, Josiah Gray settled in and gave the Nats seven innings and a chance. Gray did not walk a batter and struck out five. Jordan Weems pitched a scoreless eighth. Hunter Harvey (L, 2-3) took a hard loss although he did give up two hits and a walk in the wildly remarkable bottom of the ninth.
The score remained 4-1 until the ninth inning when a total of four runs scored- all unearned – on three errors. The Nats scored three times to tie the game in the top of the ninth helped by two fielding blunders by the Astros. Pinch hitter Corey Dickerson doubled home Joey Meneses. Dickerson then scored on a throwing error by Houston pitcher Ryan Pressly. Dominic Smith tripled to center field knocking in Ildemaro Vargas to tie the game at 4-4. But the Nats left Smith stranded at third on two consecutive groundouts by Luis Garcia and CJ Abrams.
Dry Lightning for Nats and Manager Davey Martinez
In the bottom of the ninth frame,Hunter Harvey replaced Jordan Weems on the mound. Harvey gave up two singles to start the inning but then struck out Yainer Diaz. Following a steal and a walk, the bases were loaded. Jake Meyers grounded to shortstop CJ Abrams who fired home to catcher Keibert Ruiz to nail Kyle Tucker. But Jose Abreu scored on a “throwing error” by Ruiz as Ruiz attempted to complete the double play that would have sent the game into extra innings tied at four.
Ruiz’ throw to first base sub Michael Chavis nailed Astros runner Jose Abreu in the back of the helmet. Just like the crazy World Series Game 6 play when Trea Turner was called out (yes, out!) Abreu appeared to be running on the inside grass and hampered the putout attempt by Chavis. But the umps allowed it to stand, and the game was over since it’s not a reviewable play. Change the rule?
GAME 3: NATIONALS 4, Astros 1
MacKenzie Gore went 5.2 innings and did not allow a run. Gore walked four and gave up four hits while he struck out four. Mason Thompson and Kyle Finnegan stepped in to keep the Astros scoreless through eight innings.
All five of the games’ runs were scored after the eighth inning. Keibert Ruiz (3-5, 2 RBI) jacked a home run into the right field seats to open the scoring and gave the Nats a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. Ruiz’ dinger was the first for the Nats in this series. Houston would not hit one over the fence in this game.
Hunter Harvey (BS, 5) was unable to save the game for DC. After 66 games, it was the Nats first extra inning game of the season. But Harvey (W, 3-3) earned the win thanks to a big three-run rally by the Nats in the top half of the tenth inning.
With one out, Lane Thomas (2-5) singled to left. CJ Abrams scored from his starting block at second base and the Nats retook the lead 2-1. Corey Dickerson (2-4) walked with the bases loaded and Thomas scored. Keibert Ruiz singled home Luis Garcia with the final run of the game.
Carl Edwards earned his second save of the season by pitching a clean bottom of the tenth.
Nats record: 27-40, fifth and last place in the NL East. Road trip against two top contenders: 2-4.
Up next for the DC9: Back in Washington tonight to face the second place Miami Marlins (38-31) for a three-game weekend series. Miami is 7-3 in their previous ten games.