Washington Nationals. Houston Astros. Max Scherzer. Zack Greinke. World Series. Game 7. The entire 2019 baseball season comes down to one game at Minute Maid Park tonight, where a champion will be crowned.
Entering Tuesday night, the first five games of the series were a roller coaster ride. The Nats took an early 2-0 series lead before proceeding to cough up three-straight games at home.
That left them in a 3-2 hole heading back to Houston, but they were still confident.
Step up, Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander continued his stay among the most dominant postseason pitchers of all-time with 8.1 innings of two-run ball in the team’s 7-2 Game 6 win.
“Big pitchers in big moments do what Strasburg did today,” manager Dave Martinez said after Game 6. “I told him after the game, I said, that was tremendous. You picked us all up, and we’re going to Game 7 because of your performance.”
After winning the literal must-win game yesterday, the Nats have now survived four-straight elimination games this postseason.
Their season will come down to one last one on Wednesday in Houston for all the marbles.
Brace yourselves for absolutely anything happening. That’s the nature of any Game 7.
Not that this series needed any more added weirdness. It’s the first World Series ever in which the home team has lost all six games so far, something nobody can really explain.
“It’s weird, really,” Martinez said. “I mean, we can’t explain it. I know we were trying to win games at home and just couldn’t do it. We came here today and, like I say, behind Stephen Strasburg we played really well.”
Now yesterday’s game is in the books, it’s all about going 1-0 one last time this season.
“We’re going to Game 7,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. Let’s come back tomorrow and do it again.”
The Nationals’ prospects in the fateful Game 7 received a huge boost yesterday afternoon when Max Scherzer, who was scratched from his original Game 5 assignment, was not only able to throw on flat ground but also warmed up in the bullpen during Game 6.
Martinez confirmed after Game 6 that Scherzer was his starter for the do-or-die game providing that he woke up and didn’t have the same issues he did on Sunday.
But assuming all is well with the right-hander in the morning, it’s going to be quite the sight to behold. Scherzer gutting it out through the pain in the biggest game of his life.
“That’s what you live for,” Scherzer said of starting in Game 7. “For me, I need to get in my pregame routine right now, and that’s where I’m at mentally, here we go.”
Scherzer delivered a special outing earlier in the season when he was sporting a broken nose, dominating the Philadelphia Phillies over seven scoreless innings, striking out 10.
You know the outing was good when it just gets referred to as “The Black Eye Game” now.
If he can gut it through a broken nose, you can bet that he is going to grind through this spasm issue. One way or another, it’s going to be must-watch TV for every baseball fan.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Adam Eaton told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “I’m excited. I think I’ve told many people it’s going to be must-see. Max, after he’s been almost pronounced dead has now been revived by our medical staff, it’s going to be fun.”
Though Scherzer may end up being the main attraction tonight, the Nationals are likely to need all 25 — yes, that might include Strasburg in relief — to come out on top.
More often than not this year, those players have thrived when the lights are brightest, so they’re more than ready for one last rodeo on the biggest stage of all in Houston.
“We’re excited,” Eaton said. “It’s been quite the road, but to end on a game seven is going to be hopefully well-scripted.”
As it has been all season, the fairytale for Ryan Zimmerman being on this stage after 15 seasons with the team is a major storyline. Now, he gets to play in Game 7 of the World Series.
“It’s what you dream about,” Zimmerman said on Tuesday night.
Though this team has played in and won winner-take-all games this postseason, there’s nothing quite like Game 7. It’s a feeling some players still aren’t quite sure how to handle.
“Well, I don’t know to be honest with you, I’ve never done it,” Zimmerman explained.
“I assume it’s going to pretty similar to the other ones, and that’s kind of what the plan is going to be, to try to treat it like the other games, but if we go out and play good baseball, and do what we’ve done in the games where we’ve won, we’ve got a really good chance to win.”
As the first baseman says, the key is to try to steady the heartbeat and treat it like any other game.
It’s a good job, therefore, that the Nationals have basically been playing playoff games since mid-May. They are well prepared for tonight at 8:08 pm Eastern Time.
Buckle up. Almost every single Game 7 is a wild ride with no way to know what will happen.