Max Scherzer wasn’t his typical sharp self. He wasn’t locating, his pitch count was soaring, and the daunting concept of a bunch of innings from pitchers out of the bullpen loomed over the Nationals.
Yet, despite average stuff, he battled. The one thing about Scherzer that awes me is, even with a bad start he is such a gamer that he’s able to squeeze 5 innings out of his outing, and he only allowed two runs.
He prevented the Astros from blowing the game wide open and disrupting the whole flow of the series. Imagine he gives up a bunch of runs, then you either set your bullpen back by deciding to pitch a pen game, or you burn multiple innings from another potential starter. Instead they only need Corbin for one inning, and they only need three other relievers, none of whom threw over 21 pitches.
The fact that the Astros were 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position has to hurt for them. They left 11 (ELEVEN!!!) runners on base compared to just four for the Nats.
Soto stayed patient. After a 1st inning strikeout where he stranded Trea Turner, Soto got hot. He finished a triple shy of the cycle and gave Gerrit Cole his first loss since May. Think about how big that is for the franchise. In the offseason you move on from your big bat (who arguably was better known for his hair than his consistent hitting) in order to give a 20 year old a shot at being the face of the franchise, AND IT KEEPS PAYING OFF. Soto continues to validate the decision to move on from “Home Run Derby” Harper.
Then there’s Ryan Zimmerman. The original National showed us why sports are awesome. In his first World Series AB, after struggling through a bad first seven years of the franchise, after never being able to get a playoff series win for years, after a medley of injuries, Zim delivered. His solo shot put Washington on the board in the 2nd inning.
With a 1-0 series lead, DC accomplished the minimum goal of the first two games of the series. They stole a win on the road.
Tonight they can put Houston in hole that could be insurmountable.
Stephen Strasburg has an opportunity, like Zim, and like Soto to validate a franchise’s faith in his abilities.
Stras’ curveball is deadly. He has the best called strike rate for a curveball in all of MLB. 44% of the time his curve finds the zone. Yuli Gurriel has 5 home runs this season against the curve which is one of the best tallies against that pitch in all of baseball.
Hardcore Richmond natives might have a conundrum of who to root for tonight. We have a ton of Nats fans in the 804, but we have a lot of people who love Goochland High and ODU alum Justin Verlander.
This season was the first year of Verlander’s career where he threw his off-speed pitches more often than his fastball. He has struck out the most hitters all season with breaking balls. Anthony Rendon is hot this postseason in that regard. He is 6-12 against off-speed pitches including 3 extra base hits.
Be sure to tune into our coverage of the World Series on 99.5 and 102.7 ESPN.
All stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.