Astros rout Nationals to reach brink of World Series title

Agence France-Presse
Astros rout Nationals to reach brink of World Series title
The Astros seize a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven finals of Major League Baseball to zero in on their second World Series crown in 3 seasons

WASHINGTON, USA – A masterful pitching performance from Houston ace Gerrit Cole sparked the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals, lifting them to the brink of their second World Series title in 3 seasons.

Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, and George Springer each smacked two-run homers as the Astros seized a 3-2 lead on Sunday, October 27 (Monday, October 28, Philippine time) in best-of-seven finals of Major League Baseball. 

“If we win in front of our fans, it’s going to be so special,” Correa said. “I think I’ll black out for the first time in my life.”

Cole struck out 9 and surrendered only 1 run on 3 hits over 7 innings as the Nationals dropped a third straight home game, having batted only .175 in the span.

But after dropping the first two games of the series at home, the Astros are far from overconfident.

“These next 27 outs, we’re going to have to get to wrap this thing up are going to be the hardest we’ve had to get all year,” Cole said.

Game 6 is set for Tuesday in Houston, where a seventh game would be played Wednesday if necessary.

“We’ve got a lot of fight in us left. I know we do,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re going to fight. We’re going to finish this thing.”

The Astros can secure a second title in 3 seasons on Tuesday when Justin Verlander takes the mound against the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.

Washington must win twice in Texas, as it did in the first two games of the series, to capture the first title in the franchise’s 50-year history and the first for the US capital since 1924.

“It has been pretty even this series. They are a game up with two games left. Let’s worry about Tuesday,” Martinez said. “I like our chances.”

The Astros could become only the third team in World Series history to lose the first two games at home and win the title, the first since the 1996 New York Yankees.

In sweeping 3 games at Washington, where the World Series had not been played since 1933, the Astros outscored the Nationals by a combined 19-3 after falling twice by a combined 17-7 in Houston.

Cole allowed 5 runs on 8 hits over 7 innings in a Game 1 loss but mystified Nationals batters Sunday, throwing 71 of his 110 pitches for strikes with only Juan Soto’s solo homer in the seventh spoiling a shutout effort.

“The stuff was crisper,” Cole said. “I thought we executed more pitches.”

The Nationals suffered a major setback hours before the start when scheduled starter Max Scherzer was pulled due to neck and trapezius muscle spasms, leaving 26-year-old right-hander Joe Ross to pitch on short notice.

Doctors say Scherzer might be available for Washington if the Nationals can force a seventh game.

“He’s going to try to figure something out,” Martinez said. “He wants to get himself ready.”

Astros hit 3 homers

Cuban-born 22-year-old Alvarez, who went 3-for-3 at the plate, smashed a two-run homer into the centerfield stands off Ross in the second inning after Yuli Gurriel had hit an infield single.

Soto singled and took third on Howie Kendrick’s single in the second but Cole struck out Ryan Zimmerman and induced a double play to end the threat.

Correa followed an Alvarez single in the fourth with a two-run homer off Ross to left field, lifting the Astros ahead 4-0.

Soto snapped a hitless streak of 5 1/3 innings for the Nationals by smashing a solo homer just over the centerfield wall in the seventh, trimming Houston’s lead to 4-1.

But the Astros answered in the eighth as Springer doubled, took third on Jose Altuve’s ground out and scored on a Gurriel single.

Springer blasted a two-run homer to left field in the ninth after a Martin Maldonado single to complete the scoring.

Astros relievers Joe Smith and Ryan Pressly allowed Washington only one hit after Cole’s departure.

US President Donald Trump received a chorus of boos from the crowd of 43,910 when his image appeared on the stadium videoscreen just after the third inning. – Rappler.com

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