WASHINGTON, D.C.–The atmosphere was out of this world at Nationals Park Friday night when the 2nd man on the moon,Buzz Aldrin, was part of the pregame festivities. Former Expo/Nationals battery mates Chad Cordero and Brian Schneider teams up one more time for the ceremonial first pitch in a fitting tribute to the franchises history and how far they’ve come. The fans were great, selling out the stadium, and bringing the energy long before first pitch. Potential history was in the air…and then the game started.
George Springer led off the 1st inning with a single to end Sanchez’ no-hit bid before it started this time. Jose Altuve followed with a deep drive, that off the bat looked like sure extra bases, but Victor Robles glove is where extra base hits go to die and he made an amazing on the run catch at the track to save a sure early run. Then with two outs, Springer stole 2nd base putting himself in scoring position, but Sanchez struck out Alex Bregman swinging to end the inning and end the Houston threat.
Trea Turner led off the game when he appeared to homer leading off the bottom of the 1st but Michael Brantley was able to settle under the ball just in front of the wall in left field for an out. This ended Turner’s World Series streak of getting on base to lead off the 1st after doing so in Games 1 and 2 in Houston. Anthony Rendon doubled down the left field line with two outs but Zack Greinke got the birthday boy, Juan Soto, to ground out to 1st base to end the Nats’ half to the 1st.
Carlos Correa doubled with one out in the 2nd and Josh Reddick followed with a bloop single to left field. Correa was already rounding 3rd base and Juan Soto proceeded to airmail his throw home to Suzuki. This made what could have been a close play at the plate turned into an easy run and the Astros led 1-0. Robinson Chorinos singled to make it 1st and 3rd, 1-out and the .280 hitting pitcher, Greinke, was coming to the plate. He sacrificed Chorinos to 2nd and it was 2nd and 3rd, 2-outs. Sanchez’ 2nd jam in two innings and Springer, who led off the game with a hit, was up to bat. This time Sanchez got him to ground out to short to end another Houston threat and limit the damage to only one run.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled leading off the bottom of the 2nd and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single of his own to give the Nats their first multi-baserunner threat of their own. Greinke struck out Suzuki and then induced an inning ending double play from Robles and the Nats threat was extinguished.
Altuve led off the 3rd with a double that Juan Soto misfielded in the corner to allow Altuve to reach 3rd. Brantley infield single scores Altuve and the Nationals trailed 2-0 with still no outs. Sanchez settled down and retired the next 3 Astros in order to keep it 2-0 but his pitch count was at 50.
Turner singled off Greinke in the 3rd and Adam Eaton walked to make it 1st and 2nd, 1-out with Rendon due up. Rendon skied out to centerfield and once again the birthday boy, Soto, in a clutch spot. This time Soto worked a full count before drawing a walk to load the bases. Greinke was sitting at 60 pitches and now faced Cabrera with the bases loaded. The Nats need some more 2-out magic, the kind that has produced 51% of their runs this postseason. Greinke fanned Cabrera with a 68 mph curveball to end the bases loaded threat and keep the Nationals off the board.
Sanchez was dealing again in the 4th, retiring the Astros in order, striking out Chorinos and Greinke swinging for the last two outs. He got through the inning quickly to get his team’s suddenly heating up bats back out there.
The Nationals continued to work Greinke and his pitch count in the 4th with Zimmerman working yet another Greinke leadoff walk. After Suzuki struck out, Robles hit shot past Bregman down the 3rd base line and into the corner in left that drove in Zimmerman to get the Nats on the board in Game 3. Rarely is there ever a triple to left field, but Robles has the wheels and Brantley didn’t field it 100% cleanly. Robles also became the youngest player to triple in a World Series game since Mickey Mantle did it nearly 70 years ago when he was 20. The Nats were back within a run, 2-1. The Nats were only down a run and they had the tying run 90 feet away with only 1-out. Sanchez struck out on a foul tip and Trea Turner almost tied it with a soft grounder between home and the mound but Greinke’s Gold Glove defense shone through and his was able to just get Turner at 1st to end the 4th. The Nats were finally on the board but Robles was their 5th runner stranded in scoring position in the first 4 innings, which is not the formula that got them to their 2-0 series lead.
Altuve doubled in the 5th, his 2nd run of the night, and with 1-out the Astros were mounting another threat to Sanchez who was not at 69 pitches. Brantley singled off Sanchez to drive in Altuve and get the run back for Houston and their lead was back to 2, 3–1. The pitch before the hit, Sanchez had exchanged words with home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, when he felt he had painted the black on the bottom of the zone. He was probably even more unhappy with the hit after that. Yuli Gurriel’s 2-out infield single to 1st made it 1st and 2nd before Sanchez got Carlos Correa to ground out to Turner at short on a bang bang play at first. Sanchez was keeping his team in the game, but the Nats were going to need to start cashing in their scoring chances or their chances Game 3 were going to keep dwindling.
Adam Eaton singled leading off the home half of the 5th and with 2-out Asdrubal Cabrera doubled off the wall in right field. The Nats were in business again with runners at 2nd and 3rd, 2-out and Zack Greinke’s night was over. Houston manager AJ Hinch had seen enough from his starter and pulled him after only 4.2 innings and 95 pitches. In came Josh James, the young Astros hurler, to put out Greinke’s fire. He got two quick strikes on Zimmerman before brushing him back with 98 mph heat up and in, causing Zim to spin fall down in the box, relived that cheese hadn’t hit him square in the mouth. Zimmerman was able to work the count full from the aforementioned 0-2 count, but in the end James came out on top, getting the 1st baseman to swing over a wicked 89 mph changeup that moved more like a slider. Through 5 innings, the Nats had stranded 7 runners in scoring position.
Adam Eaton made a great diving catch to rob Reddick of a line drive hit leading off the 6th but Robinson Chirinos followed with a solo homer off the left field foul pole. The Nats now trailed 4-1 after failing to drive in runners in scoring position in the previous inning yet again. After walking the next batter, Preston Tucker, Sanchez’ night was over and Fernando Rodney was coming in. Tucker proceeded to steal 2nd and advance to 3rd when Suzuki’s throw went into centerfield. Rodney then walked Springer and up walked Jose Altuve, the most clutch player in Astros history and Yankee killer from the ALCS with only 1-out. Altuve hit a one hopper to Rendon at 3rd and the Nationals were able to get Tucker in a pickle between home and 3rd and retire him for the 2nd out. Rodney then intentionally walked Brantley to load the bases before getting a Bregman to ground into a fielders choice and miraculously keep the Astros from plating any more runs.
Former National Brad Peacock entered for the Astros in the bottom of the 6th and faced fan favorite, Mr. Baby Shark himself, Gerardo Parra, who was pinch hitting for Suzuki. Parra worked a full count but Peacock ultimately strutted away with the at bat, striking out Parra swinging. Robles walked and stole 2nd before pinch hitter Matt Adams drew a walk. Yet again the Nationals were threatening but could they capitalize on it? Trea Turner fouled a ball of his foot and hit the ground before walking it off for minutes. He then proceeded to strike out swinging on the next pitch he saw. Adam Eaton then grounded out to 1st and the Nats had stranded their 8th runner in scoring position and they were through 6 innings 3 hours and 9 minutes after first pitch.
Joe Ross entered the game for the Nationals in the 7th, having not pitched since September 29th. He ended up pitching better than any other Nats pitcher Friday night to that point, retiring the Astros in order on just 12 pitches. Will Harris returned the favor in the bottom of the 7th with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.
Ross finally allowed a base runner after 1.2 innings on the mound when Springer’s infield single brought Altuve to the plate. Altuve appeared to single up the middle before Cabrera was able to field the ball behind the bag at 2nd and throw out Altuve to end the 8th. Ross was through 2 innings of work on an amazing 19 pitches.
Pinch hitter Kendrick singled off Joe Smith in the 8th giving the Nationals their first hit since Cabrera’s 5th inning double and first baserunner since Adams’ 6th inning walk. Robles went down looking with his bat on his shoulder and Yan Gomes grounded out to Bregman at 3rd base to end the 8th. After many big scoring chances in the first 6 innings the Nats had only been able to muster one baserunner since.
Suero worked a 1-2-3 9th inning and the Astros and Nationals had combined for only 2 base runners since the bottom of the 6th inning. Ross and Suero working effective 7th and 8th and 9th innings effectively saved the Nationals big bullpen arm, keeping them fresh for Patrick Corbin’s start Saturday in Game 4.
The Nationals had 14 baserunners on the night but only 2 of them came after the 6th inning. Not ideal when you are trying to take to step on a team’s throat with a 3-0 lead. The Astros, World Series champions just 2 year ago, were bound to be a tough out and not go away quietly, but the Nationals definitely let this game slip away with squandered scoring opportunities. The Nationals could afford to drop this game, but a loss on Saturday would completely change the series and give the Astros new life the Nationals can’t afford to give them.
First pitch for Game 4 on Saturday night is 8:08pm.