WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions ran a little higher in the nation’s capitol Saturday night as the once seemingly commanding 2-0 Nationals lead over Houston had fallen to 2-1. The momentum the team had ridden since Howie Kendrick’s 10th inning grand slam that propelled the Nats past the NLDS had taken a hit with Friday night’s Game 3 loss. The loss was Washington’s first since Game 3 of the NLDS all the way back on October 6, nearly three weeks prior. The tensions may have been higher but in some ways it made the atmosphere more electric than ever in this pivotal Game 4 matchup. A win would put the Nationals one win away from their first title, a loss would tie the series and turn the World Series into Best of Three contest.
Patrick Corbin, the Nationals first year $23.3 million man, struck out George Springer to start the game and then Houston hit parade began. Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel strung back to back to back to back singles. Bregman’s scored Altuve and Gurriel’s, the infield variety, drove in Brantley to give the Astros a 2-0 1st inning lead. Carlos Correa followed with a walk to load the bases and Patrick Corbin looked like he was one the ropes early. His saving grace was inducing an excellent inning ending 5-3 double play from Rendon to Zimmerman to escape with limited damage.
Rendon singled with 2-outs in the bottom of the 1st for the Nationals’ first hit of the night. Unfortunately for DC, Juan Soto hit a ling drive that was snagged out of the air by a perfectly positioned Bregman between 3rd and short to end the Nats’ 1st. Corbin then bounced back with a 1-2-3 2nd inning but Jose Urquidy was able to do the same, striking out Kendrick and Robles around a Zimmerman groundout. After 2 inning in Game 4, the Nationals still trailed 2-0 and had only one base runner.
After Corbin posted a scoreless 3rd inning, striking out Gurriel to end the inning, Yan Gomes led off the home half of the 3rd with a promising double. Corbin unsuccessfully bunted without advancing Gomes and before Turner grounded to move Gomes to 3rd base with two outs. Adam Eaton then popped out shallow left field where Correa made a back handed snag to end the Nationals threat in the 3rd. One third of the way through Game 4, the Nats still trailed Houston 2-0.
Leading off the 4th inning, Carlos Correa drew a walk from Corbin. He was followed by Robinson Chirinos who homered for the 2nd time in two games, this time his 2-run shot made it 4-0 Houston. Jake Marisnick then singled on the next pitch before Corbin struck out Urquidy on 3 pitches for the 1st out of the inning. Marisnick stole his first base of the postseason and advanced to 3rd on Springer groundout. Up stepped the Astros’ Superman, Jose Altuve, who tried to drop a squeeze bunt and failed to end the 4th inning.
Corbin and Urquidy traded 1-2-3 innings for the bottom of the 4th through the top of the 6th with the help of a smattering of great defensive plays on both sides. Victor Robles robbed Brantley of a leadoff single in he 5th inning with a diving catch in shallow centerfield as he continued to show off his range and glove in this series, despite his lingering hamstring issues.
Josh James started the 6th inning for Houston against pinch hitter Gerardo Parra, who drew a leadoff walk and Corbin’s night was done after 6 innings and 96 pitches. He had pitched much better than the scoreboard and the 4 earned runs would indicate. Outside of the 2-5 hole hitters in the first inning and the 2-run homer to Chirinos, Corbin had only allowed two other hits over his six innings of work. It wasn’t the start the Nationals envisioned but with their bats being silenced, any amount of runs Corbin gave up were going to lead to a deficit.
Adam Eaton also walked in the 6th after Turner struck out, giving the Nats 1st and 2nd with 1-out, their biggest threat of the game. Houston skipper AJ Hinch had seen enough of Josh James and brought in Will Harris to face Anthony Rendon. Rendon grounded an infield single to 1st base and the Nats loaded the bases for the daunting Juan Soto. Soto proceeded to ground out to 1st base but Parra came into score and the Nats were finally on the board in the 6th, trailing 4-1. The Nats still had runners on 2nd and 3rd with Kendrick coming to the plate, but the second baseman struck out swinging on a 2-2 cutter that clocked in at 90 mph and the Nationals threat was extinguished.
Kyle Tucker pinch hit and walked leading off the 7th inning and Springer followed with a walk off his own to make 1st and 2nsd, no outs against the Jekyll and Hyde-esque Tanner Rainey. Altuve flew out to Eaton in right for the first out of the inning but Nats’ manger Davey Martinez went to bullpen to bring in Fernando Rodney, the oldest active player in Major League Baseball, for the 3rd game in row and 3rd in four nights. In the other two appearances this series, Rodney had been less than effective, walking three of the eight total batters he had faced. Rodney had a new M.O. Saturday night, no walks issued, instead it was another Houston hit parade. After allowing a single to Brantley to load the bases, Alex Bregman wrapped Rodney’s 0-1 delivery around the left field foul pole for a grand slam and it was 8-1 Astros.
After the grand slam, Rodney went back to his old ways of walking everything in sight. He issued free passes to Gurriel and Correa, got a groundout from Chirinos and then walked Marisnick to load the bases. Finally, Martinez went back to the bullpen to bring in Wander Suero but the disaster that is Hurricane Rodney had done its damage and brought the rain tomorrow as precipitation started to fall in DC. After Suero struck out Tucker to end the 7th inning, Rodney’s final line was: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, I HR, 0 K…pitching lines like that could end up making that his final final line ever.
The Nationals made another threat in the 7th when Robles singled and Asdrubal Cabrera walked to make it 1st and 2nd, 2-outs. Trea Turner barely missed beating out a diving Gurriel to bag for infield single and instead the potential 7th inning rally was over. The Nationals were down 8-1 and down to 6 outs left to make an epic comeback.
The 8th inning featured another Nationals rally attempt. Rendon reached on an error before Soto walked to make it 2-on, 1-out before Kendrick went down swinging on a Brad Peacock slider for the 2nd out. Another Washington threat was squashed as Zimmerman flew out to right field to end the 8th. The Nationals were now 3 outs and a 7-run deficit away from squandering their 2-0 series lead.
A bright spot defensively came in the 9th when Juan Soto was able to show off his cannon, gunning down Chirinos at home plate on Marisnick’s single. Houston’s Chris Devenski finished out the game in the 9th, getting the first two outs before pinch hitter Brian Dozier walked. Trea Turner then grounded into a fielders choice and the 2019 World Series was down to a best of three.
Sunday night’s first pitch is set for 8:08 again.