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Wire Taps: Max Scherzer scratched, Astros beat Joe Ross; Nationals one loss from elimination; Offense still sputtering

Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news...

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World Series - Houston Astros v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Well, that was certainly a weekend to forget. Yes, remember walking into Nationals Park for the World Series with your parents and grandparents and kids and friends and partners and spouses — but try and forget what actually happened during the game.

It seems hard to comprehend that the Nationals will be able to escape the shadow of losing three in a row at home — one would have to imagine that all of their energy and cohesion is gone, especially at the plate entering a raucous atmosphere in Houston. It feels like this team, resilient for so long, has finally hung up its gloves and is ready to go quietly into the night — no doubt that the players will say something different (which is why they play the games and I write the linkposts), but it’s hard to fathom Trea Turner suddenly waking up, Anthony Rendon suddenly remembering who he is, Howie Kendrick barreling up the ball again. But I’ll say it likely one last time: it’s the playoffs, and they make no sense anyway.

If these are the last Wire Taps I write this season—Tuesdays are Patrick’s day—what a season and a ride it was. Here’s hoping for one more hurrah.

And with that, here’s the heat from Houston:

While their crowd roared all weekend, the Nationals’ bats have fallen silent (The Athletic)
Yes, Joe Ross wasn't perfect. And yeah, Lance Barksdale's definition of the strike zone is, uh, questionable. But the reason the Nats are on the verge of a stellar collapse is the fact that their bats have been entirely stymied by the Astros' relievers, while the Astros offense has erupted.

Baseball gods deliver Max Scherzer a cruel twist of fate. But don’t dismiss these Nats. (WaPo)
Mad Max, thanks to waking up too stiff to dress himself on Sunday morning, became Sad Max by Sunday afternoon. Also, Boswell thinks the Nats have a shot—not a great one, but a fair enough one thanks to Stephen Strasburg on the mound—at winning Game 6, and then anything goes in Game 7, especially if Max Scherzer is ready for it.

The story of these Nationals has never been easy to believe, so why stop believing now? (WaPo)
This weekend went about as poorly as it possibly could have. Nothing makes sense. The Nats are all but out of it. So why not let this crazy season go two more games? Hopefully, the offense that the Nats left in Houston will be there waiting for them.

Ross was close to striking out Correa before game-changing blast (MASN)
“I thought it was a strike,” Ross said of the 0-2 pitch to Correa. “I haven’t quite looked at it yet, so I’ll have to go double check. But I feel like as far as baseball goes, something small happens, and then seems like later that at-bat, always something big follows up. Unfortunate that’s how it went, but nothing I can do about it now.”

What Nationals, Astros think of Trump attending World Series (NYPost)
Davey Martinez: "I hope he enjoys the game." Stephen Strasburg: "I didn't really feel comfortable petting [the German shepherd]." Justin Verlander: "He has every right to be here just as much as everybody else in the stadium."

Yordan Alvarez rips home run in Game 5 to end his postseason struggles (WaPo)
Yordan Alvarez had struggled throughout the whole series. Then, he lined two singles and a home run last night to silence Nationals Park again and again.

Nationals fan protects beers instead of catching home run ball (WaPo)
Jeff Adams has always known, since little league, to get his chest in front of the ball. With two beers in hand, he didn't really have a choice, but he swears he didn't feel anything, anyway.

World Series: Nationals lose Game 5, 7-1; Astros one win away from title (WaPo)
"They managed just 17 total hits in Games 3, 4 and 5. They combined to go 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position. Soto’s homer, his second off Cole in the series, was too little, too late, and soon their last threat ended with Victor Robles leaping out of the batter’s box in frustration."

Max Scherzer injury: Nationals ace won’t start World Series Game 5 (WaPo)
Hey, look, the worst-case scenario!

Yordan Alvarez and the Astros did not waste their chance to rake in Game 5 (ESPN)
The Astros jumped on Joe Ross when they got the extra chance to do so, and the Nationals will now have to win Game 6 and 7 of the World Series in Houston, winning four games on the road to win it all.

No Scherzer, no offense leave Nats with backs to the wall (MASN)
The Nats, who rolled into Washington ready to end baseball season, watched helplessly as the Astros tore them apart, bit by bit, over the weekend. Now, they're where they always seem to end up: backs against the wall, with no margin for error whatsoever.

Astros win World Series Game 5, three straight in DC (
"You’re hearing and seeing 1996 referenced a lot lately, because the Astros could become the first team since the ’96 Yankees (and just the fourth overall, also joining the '85 Royals and '86 Mets) to drop the first two World Series tilts at home and then win it all."

Max Scherzer scratched for World Series Game 5 (
For Max Scherzer to self-report to Davey Martinez that he didn't feel good enough to pitch, well, one can only imagine how much pain he was in for it to be "literally impossible" to do anything with his arm.

Astros fans turn Nationals Park into Minute Maid Park East (Houston Chronicle)
"It was a good time to be an Astros fan on the road this weekend with the Astros winning three straight games at Nationals Park to send the World Series back to Houston with the Astros just one win away from a championship."

Suzuki rested and available for Game 5, but Martinez sticks with Gomes (MASN)
Kurt Suzuki may well get Game 6 after today's off-day.

Only 2 previous World Series had ever done this (
The last time a team blew a 2-0 lead at home this badly came in 1996, when the Braves dropped four straight, including three at home, before the Yankees won at home.

Meet Joe Ross, the Nationals' emergency Game 5 starter in the World Series (WaPo)
Joe Ross had the chance to shut down the 2016 NLDS against the Dodgers. He didn't, and his road from that game to Game 5 of the World Series was a long, winding one that primarily ran through Syracuse and Fresno — and then, against all odds, he ended up toeing the rubber.

Trump booed at Nationals Park during Game 5 of the World Series (WaPo)
"The Nationals had sought to keep politics out of their first trip to the World Series and did not invite Trump, who decided to come and then arranged the logistics with Major League Baseball, officials said."

For Trump, No Joy in Mudville (NYT)
Donald Trump attended Game 5 of the World Series, only to be greeted by raucous boos and chants of "Lock him up!" that alluded to his signature line regarding Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. A note that this is a political, not baseball-focused piece, though the most important news in the story is that he did not do the Baby Shark.

World Series Game 5: No Max Scherzer and No Offense for Washington (The Ringer)
Davey Martinez had to hand the ball to Joe Ross, who was about as good as you could've asked him to be on short rest against the Astros. But it didn't really matter, anyway: Gerrit Cole was too good for the Nationals to remotely consider hitting the ball, as the Nats only got two chances with runners in scoring position.

Road Warriors Again: Astros Take Third Straight in Washington (Fangraphs)
The Nats' path from here is essentially guesswork — but they should probably start trying to keep the Astros off the board early. Also, Fangraphs' zone is not kind to Lance Barksdale, and you gotta wonder about Daniel Hudson for 35 pitches.

Posnanski: Forget about aggression — the Nationals are trying to win the World Series the old-fashioned way (The Athletic)
"Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt the Nationals to play the games with just a little more desperation. Andrew McCutchen rather memorably said, “The good thing about this game: There’s always tomorrow.” That used to be true. But the Nationals should know they’re at the end now and tomorrows are running out."

Here are 21 facts, figures from Game 5 (
This article features the phrase "the White Sox upset of the Cubs in '06." Now, you may be thinking, "didn't the White Sox beat the Astros, and wasn't it in '05?" Well, you made the mistake of defaulting to the 21st century when you should've considered the 20th. Yeah, that's how bad it's getting, folks.