HOUSTON — Two words, one meaning: Game…Seven. The entire 2019 Major League Baseball season has come down to one game. “We’re going to Game 7” said a happier Davey Martinez after his team’s Game 6 victory in which he was ejected in the 7th inning Monday night, “Let’s come back and do it again!”
Game 7: Those two simple words mean the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros will play a Game 7 to decide which team will reign supreme. For the first time in the 1,420 best-of-seven series between the MLB, NBA and NHL, the road team has won the first 6 games creating what has amounted to reverse home field advantage. Over three games in Houston the Nationals have gone 3-0 by a combined score of 24-9, while in DC, the Astros have outscored Washington 19-3 to take all three games. Historically the road team holds the slimmest of edges, as the visiting team is 20-19 in the previous 39 World Series Game 7’s.
This Game 7 will be the first to feature a matchup of two former Cy Young Award winners, Zack Greinke (’09) and Max Scherzer (’13, ’16, ’17), in a fitting finale to a World Series that has had arguably the best starting pitching matchups of all time; Scherzer/Cole, Strasburg/Verlander (twice), Greinke/Sanchez and now Scherzer/Greinke. The 9 total starters (Cole/Verlander/Greinke/Urquidy for Houston, Scherzer/Strasburg/Sanchez/Corbin/Ross for DC) between the two teams this Series have won 1007 games and strike out 14,503 batters in their combined regular season career, with every single one of them being .500 or better.
Both Greinke and Scherzer possess no-hit stuff when they are on, with Greinke famously stating back in June (ironically at Nationals Park) “throwing a no-hitter would be a hassle” and he “never thinks about them, EVER,” despite taking two no-hitters into the 8th inning this year alone. Max Scherzer on the other hand has, in fact, thrown two career no-hitters and also tied the record for strikeouts in a game with 20 against his former team the Tigers and former Nationals’ pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Record holder for most losses without a victory in World Series history and current Astro, Justin Verlander, was also on that Detroit team.
Max Scherzer warmed up in the bullpen during Game 6 and could be seen stalking around in there into the 9th inning, mentally preparing himself for Game 7. After his team’s Tuesday night victory, the hetrochromatic-eyed righty said “when I was warming up [Tuesday] I felt good” despite being scratched from Game 5’s start with neck spasms adding “I’m good to go.” His teammate and the man who got the final 2-outs of Game 6, Sean Doolittle agreed saying Mad Max “looked really good” adding he and his other teammates are “all excited to see him pick up where Stras left off.”
When asked about Wednesday night’s Game 7, Zack Greinke, in his usual succinct monotone delivery opined, “yeah, it’s going to be a big game.”
Between never advancing past the NLDS before this season and sweeping the NLCS this year, tonight marks the first ever Game 7 in Washington Nationals history. Houston is 2-1 in their 3 previous Game 7’s, with those two victories coming at home in 2017 (Yankees in ALCS, Dodgers in World Series) and their solo Game 7 loss coming in St. Louis back in the 2004 NLCS when they were still in the National League. The last time the Astros won the World Series it was in a Game 7 where they jumped on Yu Darvish for 5 early runs and chaseing him in the 2nd inning leading then and current Astro, Yuli Gurriel, to make his now infamous racist gesture poking fun at the Japanese pitcher. The Astros led 5-0 after two innings and never looked back in their eventual 5-1 win clinching Houston’s 2nd ever World Series. The Nationals need to avoid that kind of slow start and take more advantage of the kind of opportunities they had against Greinke in his truncated Game 3 start in Washington of if they want to bring home the first World Series in their history.
First pitch for the 40th Game 7 in World Series history is Wednesday night at 8:08 pm.
As a post script to this Game 7 preview, I would like to close with an open letter to Mr. Stephen James Strasburg.
I would like to be the first to say I am sincerely sorry for ever saying or writing a disparaging word about you, your toughness, your heart or your postseason intestinal fortitude. What you have done this postseason has been nothing short of legendary. Namely going 5-0 across 6 appearances and 5 starts, and joining the great Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to ever win 5 games in the same postseason while becoming the first righty. You also earned 4 of those 5 victories on the road all around the country over less than month, winning twice in both Los Angeles and Houston, facing elimination the 2nd start of each series. You also stared down Justin Verlander, the 2019 AL wins leader (you led the NL) and active career wins leader, TWICE, and came out on top both times driving his career record in the World Series to 0-6 in the process.
When you were drafted #1 overall in the 2009 Draft on April 27, 2009, you made it the Big Leagues just over 13 months later in what was called by some “the most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen” and it was hyped. I should know, I was there in the press box and watched you live up to the hype. I watched from above as you made mince meat of a Pittsburgh lineup that featured future NL NVP Andrew McCutchen and future Silver Slugger second baseman Neil Walker, striking out 14 of the first 24 batters you ever faced in the Majors over 7 innings and earning your first Major League victory.
You have had tremendous “World Series or Bust” pressure put on you since before you even arrived at Nationals Park and last night in Houston, your performance, at least in my eyes, forever silenced the baseball world’s ability to criticize your capabilities or heart.
10 years after you were drafted with the highest of expectations, you have taken your Washington Nationals to the precipice of the World Series and you have done everything in your power to get them here to a Game 7. It is now up to them to finish the fight. You have done everything you can and tonight we will see if your teammates can finish the fight!