Nobody said it was going to be easy for the Washington Nationals. but nobody could’ve even imagined what happened this weekend. After returning home with a 2-0 lead, the Houston Astros thoroughly dominated them to take a 3-2 series lead.
There’s no secret as to what went wrong for the Nationals in the last three games. With runners in scoring position, the team went a combined 1-for-21, including brutal 0-for-10 and 1-for-9 efforts in the first two home games.
Fans can blame the questionable home plate umpiring all they want, but the Astros fully deserved to win all three games in the nation’s capital as they beat down on their hosts.
“They didn’t win 106 games for nothing,” manager Dave Martinez said after Sunday’s loss. “They’re really good. They’ve got a well-balanced lineup. Their pitching is good. Their bullpen gets outs. We knew this coming in.
“Like I said, it was pretty even this whole series. They’re a game up with two games left. So let’s just worry about Tuesday.”
There are plenty of downbeat adjectives to describe the first three World Series games played in D.C. in 86 years, all of which are thoroughly warranted after a dismal display.
“I don’t think anyone would have expected to lose three,” unexpected Game 5 starter Joe Ross said after the game. “It happens. We’ve still got to fight, stay in the fight like they say, so go down to Houston and try to take care of business.”
“Take care of business” puts it mildly, as the Nats will need to make some history to climb out.
In World Series history, no team has ever collected all four of the wins required to take home the crown on the road. The Nationals will have to be the first team to ever do that if they are to have a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue this year.
They also have to do it against the team that owns baseball’s best home record this season in the Astros at 65-22, including the playoffs. The next best was the Dodgers at 60-24.
And on top of all of that, the Nationals also have to swing the momentum of the series back in their favor having lost three straight games. However, the manager isn’t concerned about whether the team lost its swagger this weekend...
“No, not these guys,” Martinez responded. “We fought all year long to get here. We played playoff games all year long to get here. But we have a lot of fight in us left. I know we do.
“Like I said, tomorrow they get a day off, they’ll come in, get their treatment, some guys will work out. But we’ll come back ready to go on Tuesday.”
The Nationals definitely need the day-off to at least recalibrate and then make the trip out to Houston. But on Tuesday, they will need to fend off elimination to try and force a Game 7.
Though the stakes are much higher in the Fall Classic, the do-or-die situation is one the Nats have seemingly been dealing with ever since they well to 19-31 and needed to essentially play playoff baseball from that point on to even be here this deep in October.
“We had our backs against the wall all year long,” Martinez said. “Nobody thought we were going to be here. We’re here playing Game 6 of the World Series. We’re going to fight. We’re going to finish this thing.”
If this team does one thing right, it’s that they will never get down by the result of one, two, or three bad games in a row. Time and time again this season, they followed up poor defeats with bounceback wins.
There’s no reason to think they can’t do it again, especially with the mood in the clubhouse still the same as it’s been all season long, focused on the next game.
“You know what, I honestly think that our guys — they just come out and play,” Martinez explained. “You listen to them now when we walked in, and they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to Houston and win that first game and get to Game 7.’”
Once again, it hearkens back to the team’s 1-0 mentality, putting whatever is in the past behind them and locking in their focus to the next game on their calendar until there isn’t one.
“I told them the focus is Game 6,” Martinez said. “We’ve got Stephen Strasburg on the mound. I like our chances, you know, keeps us in the ball game. Who knows what can happen.”
The team’s hopes might not be in better hands than Strasburg’s on Tuesday. The right-hander was in a similar spot just two years ago, albeit in the NLDS, not the World Series.
With the team 2-1 down in the series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Strasburg delivered one of his best performances to stave off elimination and force a winner-take-all game. It would be foolish to write off him doing it again this time around.
If he can guide the Nats to a win, then anything can happen in Game 7. Absolutely anything.
Maybe Max Scherzer can overcome his injury to start that potential game. Maybe Strasburg channels his inner Randy Johnson and comes out in relief on zero days rest. Nobody knows, the key is just getting there by going 1-0 on Tuesday.
No matter which way you look at it, the odds are stacked against the Nationals again. But funnily enough, this year of all years, that might be just the way this team likes it.