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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals trounce Houston Astros, take 2-0 lead; Stephen Strasburg’s journey to dominance; Juan Soto making mark on World Series

Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news while we all wait for the World Series to return to D.C.

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World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This is the best-case scenario, but it’s arguably the worst-case scenario, too: Zack Greinke absolutely shut down the Nationals in his one start against them this season, and it certainly feels like Aníbal Sánchez is the type of pitcher the Astros could demolish — and then they could rattle off another three wins in a row, and the Nats could blow this lead. Or not. But low expectations are always a good thing. I think. I don’t know anything anymore.

Here’s the scoop from South Capitol Street:

Watch all of the Nationals' home run dances from World Series Game 2 (WaPo)

Astros issue first intentional walk in 6-run 7th (
The Houston Astros have played 175 games this season. 175! And in all of the previous 174, AJ Hinch did not once consider intentionally walking a batter. Then came Juan Soto with runners on second and third, and then the Astros' defense unraveled.

‘At some point, Stephen just said, Enough’: How freshman year at San Diego State reshaped the career of Stephen Strasburg – The Athletic
In his freshman year, Stephen Slothburg, 250 pounds, threw up mid-workout. Nobody on the San Diego State Aztecs thought he would make the team — including Strasburg. He had been angry, explosively bad in high school at times. His mental strength, a problem that persisted into the majors, was lacking. Then, he let his talent take the wheel — and he found some friends on the team, too. Then, he spent a semester working out, and his velocity increased by the week.

Posnanski: Juan Soto is not the future, he’s the present — and he’s turned this Series into a whole new ballgame (The Athletic)
Juan Soto has always been referred to as the youngest player to do this, the next player to do that. He has had unlimited potential for about two seasons now. But in this World Series, Juan Soto has been the present: he demolished a pitch high in the zone, cracked a three-run double, and made it very clear that Juan Soto's here to stay, and he's a big problem.

Aníbal Sánchez to start World Series Game 3 (
Sánchez will get game three, meaning that Patrick Corbin will likely get Game 4, though Davey Martinez could hypothetically go to Joe Ross given that the Astros tend to crush lefties.

Aníbal Sánchez to pitch Game 3 for Nationals. Who gets Game 4? (WaPo)
If Patrick Corbin is needed for Game 3, then things will get more complicated for Saturday — but more likely after last night is that he'll get the ball for Game 4.

Sean Doolittle’s Important Turnaround Evident in Game 1 (Fangraphs)
Sean Doolittle, at least at this moment, looks like he's back to being his usual self in terms of FIP and velocity — and his Game 1 performance seemed to confirm that for the moment.

Washington Nationals star Juan Soto is getting the recognition he deserves (BtBS)
"The funny thing about Soto is despite his big moments this postseason, he actually has not hit that well before the World Series! Through the NLCS, he hit only .237/.326/.421 in 43 PA. He took only four unintentional walks and struck out 13 times. However, because he has gotten the big hits when his team has really needed them, he had a 0.85 WPA for the pre-World Series postseason, per FanGraphs."

Running Up Pitch Counts Won’t Be Enough to Beat Washington’s Aces (Fangraphs)
The Astros' plan for Game 1 was pretty clear: get Max Scherzer out early, and get to the middle bullpen. That rested upon not swinging at anything remotely out of the strike zone if possible — but Scherzer kept mixing his pitches, kept winning 3-2 battles, and made it through five gutsy innings.

Nationals lean on Patrick Corbin as secret relief weapon (Sports Illustrated)
If the Nats want to use Patrick Corbin as a reliever in every game, they *could* hypothetically do that. Aside from his disastrous outing in Game 3 of the NLDS, he's been pretty close to nails — and it may just make sense for him to keep having bullpen sessions on the diamond instead of in the bullpen.

World Series: Strasburg delivers epic start, Nationals offense erupts (USA TODAY)
It'll be lost in the narrative about the Nats' offensive eruption in the seventh and eighth innings, but Stephen Strasburg's gutsy six innings of two-run ball laid the groundwork for the Nats to win Game 2.

Stephen Strasburg Game 2 vs. Astros (
Strasburg, in the playoffs, was nails yet again — while he seriously had to work to get through his six innings, he all but shut down the Astros after allowing two runs in the first.

Rodney only 4th in MLB history to achieve feat (
Fernando Rodney has been on a roster for and pitched in the AL Wild Card Game, ALDS, ALCS, NL Wild Card Game, NLDS, NLCS, and World Series (on both the AL and NL sides).

Opportunistic Nats head home with 2-0 WS lead (
There are still at least two games—probably four or five—left in this series. With that said, the Nats threw the Astros way off their game plan in Game 2, and they suddenly have a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

Astros already past George Springer’s potentially costly mistake in Game 1 (WaPo)
George Springer thought he had tied the game. Instead, the ball caromed off the wall, nearly landing in Adam Eaton's glove beforehand — and Springer landed on second. The Astros lost the game by a run, but Houston has moved on, they say.

World Series: Nationals rout Astros, 12-3, in Game 2 to take 2-0 series lead (WaPo)
The Nationals, finally, got a minute to breathe last night; after capitalizing on every last mistake the Astros made on a night when the opposition couldn't push runners across the plate.

Nationals blow out Astros to take 2-0 World Series lead. (SI/AP)
"Stephen Strasburg’s time had come. Famously held out of the postseason seven years ago, Strasburg delivered on the biggest stage of all Wednesday night."

Nationals, Dave Martinez keep bunting in the playoffs and World Series (WaPo)
Look, it worked for them last night. But of the 18 sacrifice bunt attempts this postseason, the Nationals have 12 of them — and the numbers really, really hate bunting.

Three quick observations from the Nationals’ Game 2 World Series victory (The Athletic)
The Nats, thus far, are a tale of just good enough: their starters have gotten them through just enough of the game; their bullpen is doing just enough; their offense is just getting to Houston's elite pitchers. And the defense—the catchers, in particular—seems solid enough. But do not by any means whatsoever count out the Astros, who, if the Nats somehow beat Greinke on Friday (feels unlikely), will probably throw Gerrit Cole in Game 4 to keep their year going.

The Nationals are meeting the World Series moment, and the Astros are shrinking from it (WaPo)
The Nationals, when it has mattered most, have been able to get to Houston's pitchers. The Astros, thus far, have been unable to say the same.

Astros Drop Game 2 to the Nationals 12-3 in a Late-Game Meltdown (The Crawfish Boxes)
"Hopefully the day off gives them time to regroup and look more like the team that won 107 games during the regular season, because down 2-0 and about to head out on the road, they’re going to need to be that good to come back. Game 3 will be Friday at 7:07 PM Central Time, with Zack Greinke taking the mound in Washington against Aníbal Sánchez."

FOX butchers Gerardo Parra 'Baby Shark' song (Larry Brown Sports)
Dear FOX: Next time you play Baby Shark on TV, click on the YouTube video with 3.3 billion views, not the smooth jazz remix. Truly shocking.

Nats' Stephen Strasburg Out-Duels Astros Justin Verlander In World Series Game 2 (Deadspin)
"But with Cole and Verlander already spent, the 107-win Astros find themselves suddenly facing long odds in a series that in its buildup felt very much like a coronation. They’ve certainly got their work cut out for them."

Nats blow out Astros and seize control of World Series (MASN)
"If you’ve watched this season from start to finish, you know the narrative that has surrounded the Nationals all along. But if you’ve watched this postseason at all, surely you know by now that nothing that happened between April and September matters much anymore."

Odds don’t favor the Astros anymore (NBC Sports)
The last team to come back from losing the first two games of the World Series at home was the New York Yankees in 1996, but, say it with me, kids, nothing about October has made sense thus far.

Kurt Suzuki homers off Justin Verlander in World Series Game 2 (
Kurt Suzuki slapped a home run to give the Nats a tenuous one-run lead against the Astros. Then Victor Robles walked, Trea Turner walked, Adam Eaton bunted, Howie Kendrick hit an infield single, Asdrubal Cabrera lined one up the middle, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a bouncer Alex Bregman couldn't field cleanly. Six. Run. Inning.

Fans flood into Nationals Park for World Series Game 2 watch party (WaPo)
12,500 Nats fans filled the lower bowl from the left field foul pole through section 134 as walk-up music blared and cheers erupted from South Capitol Street.

World Series bright lights no concern for electric Soto (MASN)
Juan Soto adjusted his swing after the NLCS, and it seems to have paid off: The Astros issued their first intentional walk of the season because they're scared of him. Not their first intentional walk of the postseason; of the season.

Patrick Corbin Was The Nationals' Only Choice
"It’s self-evidently a good strategy, not just because good pitchers with certain mindsets are good pitchers no matter when and how they appear, and not just because the Nationals have a lead in the World Series. It’s a good strategy because the only viable one; need is necessary and sufficient recommendation for any plan. What, you want Wander Suero out there instead?"

Nationals trounce Astros in miserable World Series performance (Houston Chronicle)
”Hosting the sport’s highest powers on a World Series stage, the Astros butchered almost every aspect of their three-day display inside Minute Maid Park. A top baseball operations executive remains in hot water over his so-called “overxuberance” against female reporters. His boss remains silent — save an 11-minute appearance on a rightsholder radio show. Putrid public relations has only exacerbated the already excruciating situation. Solace was sought between the foul lines. The heaviest World Series favorite since 2007, Houston aligned its two aces for starts against a streaky team coming off a six-day layoff. The luxury would be relished by most. The Astros wasted it.”