The Washington Nationals win the first World Series game they have played in since moving to D.C., defeating the Houston Astros 5-4.
Coming into the game, the Nationals were the “underdogs” by a wide margin, and for good reason. The Astros were throwing Gerrit Cole, their ace and free-agent-to-be. The Astros have also been in this spot before, playing in the World Series just two seasons ago and playing in each of the past three American League Championship Series, and returning most of their players from their 2017 championship team.
Except, Gerrit Cole was not a part of that championship team. He had not pitched in a World Series game before. Just like the Washington Nationals, this stage was new to him.
He took it in stride, initially, striking out two in his first inning of work while not letting a leadoff single and stolen base shake him.
His counterpart, three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, had a more difficult time in his first inning of work. It took 26 pitches for Scherzer to get through the first, and he threw a total of 112 pitches through the five innings he pitched.
George Springer led off the bottom half of the first with a seven-pitch walk, then ALCS MVP Jose Altuve followed that with a single. Several batters later, Yuli Gurriel hit a double off the wall in left field that scored Springer and Altuve, putting the Astros ahead 2-0.
In the top of the second, in his first World Series at-bat, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman took a pitch way over the center-field wall to answer back to the Astros from the half-inning prior. Does Zimmerman have the nickname “Mr. National” yet?
Two innings later, Juan Soto stepped up to the plate and became the fourth-youngest hitter to hit a home run in the World Series. This game was tied, and the Nationals were becoming electrified. What can’t Juan Soto do?
After getting Jose Altuve to ground out with runners on first and second in the bottom of the fourth, the Nationals kept pounding on Gerrit Cole. Catcher Kurt Suzuki led off with a walk, followed by a single from Victor Robles. Adam Eaton would hit an RBI single to score Suzuki and move Robles to second.
Two batters later, Juan Soto drilled a pitch off the left-field wall, bringing in both Eaton and Anthony Rendon, who reached via fielder’s choice. Washington found itself with a 5-2 lead. They were in the driver’s seat.
Left-hander Patrick Corbin relieved Scherzer in the sixth and worked a scoreless inning. Tanner Rainey replaced Corbin the following inning and found trouble. He allowed a solo home run to Springer and walked two batters.
Manager Dave Martinez brought in Daniel Hudson to stop the Astros’ rally. He did just that, getting Yordan Alvarez to strike out swinging with the bases loaded to end the threat. It was 5-3 Nationals at the end of seven.
The Astros finally relieved Gerrit Cole in the eighth, bringing in Will Harris and Joe Smith to work the final two innings.
The last rally the Astros struck up was in the bottom of the eighth. The home team got to Hudson, who allowed an RBI double to Springer, bringing the Astros within one.
Just one run. But they could not get it.
The Nationals brought in closer Sean Doolittle for the four-out save, securing the win.
Essentially, Washington wiped away the home-field advantage the Astros had coming into the Series. They made a huge statement by getting to Gerrit Cole, who allowed the most runs in an outing since he gave up six to the White Sox back in May.
Don’t count the Astros out just yet, though. They have so many weapons within their lineup and in their starting rotation, seeing seven different batters with hits.
What separated these two teams was that the Nationals did not give up. They knew coming in that they were the underdogs. History was against them, as was having so much rest between Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and the first game of the Fall Classic.
But they did not care. Even when they were down two runs after the first inning, they kept their heads down and went to work. Juan Soto finished 3-for-4 with three RBI, a triple shy of the cycle. Six Nationals batters contributed in the hit column.
The Astros will have to focus on being better in clutch situations with runners in scoring position. They had 12 strikeouts as a team, but three hitters with multi-hit games.
Game 2 will feature the Houston Astros throwing Justin Verlander, another ace in their cards. He has been here before, pitching in the 2017 World Series. The Nationals counter with Stephen Strasburg. Like Cole, he is a free-agent-to-be. Both teams have giant stakes in Game 2, and both can not afford to lose.