Nationals outlast Astros to capture World Series opener
HOUSTON, USA – Overcoming a pitcher who hadn't lost in 5 months, the Washington Nationals took a huge step toward delivering the US capital its first Major League Baseball crown in 95 years by edging the Houston Astros, 5-4, in the opening game of the 115th World Series on Tuesday, October 22 (Wednesday, October 23, Philippine time)
Dominican 20-year-old leftfielder Juan Soto smacked a solo home run in the 4th inning and a two-run double in the 5th off Astros ace Gerrit Cole to ignite Washington's victory.
"He likes to throw the fastball. I just sat there and waited for the fastball," Soto said.
Left-handed closing reliever Sean Doolittle forced the last 4 outs as Washington jumped ahead 1-0 in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven championship final, which continues Wednesday in Houston.
Soto became the third-youngest "cleanup" batter – fourth in the lineup – in World Series history after Ty Cobb in 1907 and Miguel Cabrera in 2003.
Soto, who turns 21 on Friday, admitted he was nervous in his World Series debut.
"In the first at bat, I'm not going to lie, I felt a little bit shaky in my legs, but I just tried to control my emotions and hit the ball," Soto said.
"After the first at bat I just said it's just another baseball game. Just go out and enjoy."
The Nationals have won 17 of their past 19 games, including 7 in a row, and opener winners have taken 18 of the prior 22 World Series titles.
Cole, this year's major league strikeout leader, had won 19 straight decisions in his past 25 starts over 5 months, the longest one-season win streak in MLB history, but he also surrendered the most runs he has since last losing on May 22.
"He has been so good for so long there builds this thought of invincibility and that it's impossible to beat him," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
"So when it happens, it's a surprise to all of us because we've watched for months this guy completely dominate the opposition. It's just not easy to do what these guys do in their streaks of dominance."
The 5 earned runs Cole allowed matched his total from his prior eight starts combined, with Hinch calling Soto "the difference in the game."
"He never really controlled Soto the whole night," Hinch said of Cole.
The Astros are chasing their second title in 3 seasons while the Nationals, who moved from Montreal to Washington for the 2005 season, chase their first crown and the US capital's first since the Senators captured the 1924 championship. No Washington team since 1933 had played in the Series.
"It's huge. (The club) waited a long time to get to this position. I'm super happy I'm a part of it," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're elated to be here. The city is going crazy."
Washington right-hander Max Scherzer took the victory despite lasting only 5 innings, striking out 7 while allowing 5 hits and 3 walks.
Zimmerman, Soto homer
Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel smacked a two-run double off the left-field wall to put the Astros ahead, 2-0.
Washington's Ryan Zimmerman answered with a solo homer in the 2nd inning and Soto blasted a solo shot to left field in the 4th to equalize at 2-2.
The Nationals seized the lead for good in the 5th when Adam Eaton singled in Kurt Suzuki from 3rd.
After Anthony Rendon grounded into a fielder's choice, Soto blasted a two-run double off the left-field wall to lift the Nationals ahead 5-2 – the major league's best lineup at scoring with two outs in an inning producing that way once again.
But the Nationals bullpen of relief pitchers, with the worst earned-run average of any playoff team in major league history, struggled to finish.
Tanner Rainey surrendered a towering solo homer to Houston's George Springer in the 7th, his 5th consecutive World Series game with a homer to break a record he shared with Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson.
Daniel Hudson replaced Rainey and struck out Yordan Alvarez with the bases loaded to end the threat.
In the 8th, Springer doubled in a run off the centerfield fence, but Doolittle entered to get the last 4 outs, retiring the Astros in order in the 9th for the save. – Rappler.com