Kurt Suzuki’s leadoff home run sparked a six-run seventh inning that propelled the Washington Nationals to a 12-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night. The win, Washington’s second straight on the road to open the World Series, gave the Nationals a commanding two-games-to-none lead.
For the first six innings, the two starting pitchers, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Houston’s Justin Verlander, had essentially matched each other. Both allowed two runs in the first inning and both followed that with five dominant shutout innings.
The seventh was a different story. Verlander was immediately in trouble, allowing a leadoff homer to Suzuki. When he walked the next batter, and with his pitch count at 107, he was quickly relieved by Ryan Pressly.
It was not Pressly’s night.
He not only allowed the inherited runner to score, but he gave up four earned runs of his own thanks to singles by Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ryan Zimmerman. By the time the inning ended, Washington had opened a six-run lead.
Washington added three more runs in the eighth on Adam Eaton’s two-run homer off Josh James and Asdrubal Cabrera’s R.B.I. single off Hector Rondon. Michael A. Taylor, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement, finished off the Nationals’ scoring with a solo homer in the ninth.
Strasburg, who escaped a jam with a strikeout to end his half of the sixth, departed after his team opened a big lead in the next inning. He ended up allowing two runs on seven hits, struck out seven and walked one. That was enough to outduel Verlander, who allowed three earned runs in six-plus innings, with seven hits, six strikeouts and three walks.
The series will now shift to Washington, with Game 3 scheduled for Friday at 8:07 p.m.
Read on to follow Game 2 as it happened.
After Carlos Correa flied out to center off Javy Guerra, Martin Maldonado hit a surprising solo homer to left, narrowing the deficit to 12-3. Josh Reddick grounded out but George Springer was able to briefly keep Houston alive by reaching on a throwing error from Anthony Rendon. Jose Altuve singled, sending Springer to second, but Jake Marisnick grounded out to third to end the game.
Chris Devenski came in to pitch for Houston. He retired Kurt Suzuki on a grounder to third but then allowed a 393-foot homer to Michael Taylor, a player who had come into the game as a defensive replacement. Taylor now has two postseason home runs this season after hitting only one in the regular season.
Devenski settled down to strike out Trea Turner and Gerardo Parra, who came in as a pinch-hitter for Adam Eaton, flied out to center to end the inning.
The Astros have three outs left to try to make up a 10-run deficit.
Tanner Rainey was much better tonight than last night. Alex Bregman flied out to right, Yuli Gurriel flied out to center and Yordan Alvarez struck out. Rainey needed 12 pitches for a perfect inning.
This game is officially out of hand.
Josh James struck out the first two batters he saw in the inning, but Victor Robles, who had led off, reached first on a dropped third strike. That proved costly, as Adam Eaton hit a two-run homer to right, pushing Washington’s lead to 10-2.
Anthony Rendon struck out and Juan Soto walked ahead of Howie Kendrick getting his second hit of the game with a single to left. James was replaced by Hector Rondon who promptly allowed a single to center from Asdrubal Cabrera that brought Soto in from second, making it 11-2.
Jose Altuve managed to end the difficult inning with a nice diving stop on a grounder from Ryan Zimmerman that gave him plenty of time to throw over to first for the third out.
Houston was unable to counter the Nationals’ big inning.
Washington’s first reliever of the night was the 42-year-old Fernando Rodney. He walked Josh Reddick, but got some defensive help when Anthony Rendon fielded a harder grounder from George Springer at third and was able to throw to second to retire the lead runner. Jose Altuve popped out softly to Trea Turner at shortstop and Michael Brantley grounded out to first to end the inning.
The damn finally broke and Washington jumped to a 8-2 lead thanks to a solo homer and three singles that generated more five runs.
Leading off the inning, Kurt Suzuki put Stephen Strasburg in line to potentially get a win in this game by taking the second pitch he saw from Justin Verlander on a 381-foot ride to left-center. The solo home run gave Washington a 3-2 lead.
Victor Robles then walked, putting Verlander at 107 pitches, and Manager A.J. Hinch talked briefly to his ace before replacing him with Ryan Pressly.
Pressly walked the first batter he saw, Trea Turner, and then had both runners advance on a sacrifice bunt from Adam Eaton.
After Anthony Rendon flied out to center for the second out, Houston intentionally walked Juan Soto to get to Howie Kendrick. With the bases loaded, Kendrick got his first hit of the World Series — an infield single that brought in a run. The next batter, Asdrubal Cabrera, singled to center, bringing in two more runs, and the Nationals were suddenly leading, 6-2.
A wild pitch sent the runners to second and third, and that proved vital as Ryan Zimmerman singled on a ground ball to third that drove in a run and brought a second one in thanks to Alex Bregman’s throwing error, making it 8-2.
That was it for Pressly, who was replaced by Josh James after allowing four earned runs to go with one inherited run while recording just two outs. James quickly ended things by getting Suzuki, the batter who started the scoring, to ground out to shortstop to end the inning.
A few baserunners, but no real trouble for Stephen Strasburg, whose night is most likely finished.
After Alex Bregman grounded out to shortstop, Yuli Gurriel doubled on a liner into the left-field corner that took a while for Juan Soto to corral. After falling behind in the count, 2-0, against the next batter, Yordan Alvarez, Strasburg signaled for an intentional walk to bring up Carlos Correa. Strasburg ran the count full against the Houston shortstop, but then threw him a bat-breaking changeup that got Correa to pop-up to second for the second out.
Strasburg was at 106 pitches when Kyle Tucker came out to pinch-hit for Robinson Chirinos, and he was at 114 when he finally retired the rookie on a called strike three.
That was a quiet one for Justin Verlander. Howie Kendrick continued to look lost, flying out to center, and Asdrubal Cabrera struck out swinging. Ryan Zimmerman then grounded out to end the inning. Verlander is at 98 pitches.
Continuing the theme of the ace pitchers matching each other, Stephen Strasburg stranded a runner in a scoreless fifth inning.
Josh Reddick led off by grounding out to first and George Springer grounded out sharply to shortstop. Jose Altuve then extended the inning with a single to left that a diving Trea Turner couldn’t reach, but he was left there as Michael Brantley flied out to center to end the inning.
Just like Verlander, Strasburg’s pitch count is starting to climb into the range of wondering how much longer he will be in the game. He is at 86 pitches through five innings.
Trea Turner singled off Justin Verlander but was back in the dugout fairly quickly when Adam Eaton grounded into a 6-3 double-play. Anthony Rendon walked in a seven-pitch at-bat, and while Juan Soto took a few mighty hacks at Verlander’s offerings, the 20-year-old slugger ended the inning by grounding out harmlessly to first.
Houston Manager A.J. Hinch will at least need to start thinking about his bullpen moves, as Verlander is up to 83 pitches and may only have one, possibly two innings left.
Stephen Strasburg continued to match Justin Verlander’s dominance.
After Yuli Gurriel struck out to start the inning, Yordan Alvarez singled on a hard grounder that found its way past Asdrubal Cabrera at second base. Carlos Correa hit a grounder to third base, but with Anthony Rendon fielding it on the run, he had no play at second, so he threw to first for just one out.
With two down and a runner on second, Robinson Chirinos struck out to strand the runner. Strasburg is up to six strikeouts.
Justin Verlander came up empty on an attempt at a diving grab on defense, but he worked around that one hit for a third straight scoreless inning.
After Verlander struck out a visibly frustrated Asdrubal Cabrera with a high changeup to start the inning, Houston’s starter was unable to make a play on a soft grounder by Ryan Zimmerman, resulting in an infield single for the longest-tenured Nationals player.
Unrattled, Verlander retired Kurt Suzuki on a liner to left and then ended the inning by getting Victor Robles to pop out to second.
Stephen Strasburg had to deal with a few base runners, but he came away with another scoreless inning.
Josh Reddick led off for Houston and he struck out swinging before George Springer skied a pop-out to second base. With two down, Jose Altuve grounded a ball to short that Trea Turner struggled to field. With Altuve motoring to first, Turner rushed a throw and Ryan Zimmerman was unable to scoop it out of the dirt. Altuve ended up on first, with an error charged to Turner.
Michael Brantley sent Altuve to third with a single to right that just cleared the glove of a jumping Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, but Alex Bregman grounded out sharply to shortstop to end the threat.
Justin Verlander was dominant once again.
Adam Eaton started things off in the third by flying out to center and Anthony Rendon grounded out to Jose Altuve, who was playing on the other side of the diamond as a result of a shift. With two outs, Juan Soto doubled down the right-field line — his third extra-base hit of the World Series — but Howie Kendrick flied out to right to end the inning. Kendrick, the N.L.C.S. M.V.P., remains hitless in the World Series.
Stephen Strasburg was absolutely dominant in a perfect inning.
Yordan Alvarez hit a ball sharply that appeared headed for the outfield before Washington’s second baseman, Asdrubal Cabrera, was able to snare it for an out. Strasburg then froze Carlos Correa with a sinking curveball for a called strikeout and got Robinson Chirinos with a terrific changeup that the Houston catcher could only wave at.
Justin Verlander is the new postseason strikeout king and the game remains tied after a scoreless half-inning.
Verlander got off to a better start than he did in the first, striking out Ryan Zimmerman on six pitches. After Kurt Suzuki singled to left-center field, Victor Robles struck out, with a foul-tip finding its way into Robinson Chirinos’s glove. It was Verlander’s 200th career postseason strikeout, pushing him past John Smoltz for the major league record.
With two down, Trea Turner flied out to right to end the inning.
Staked to a 2-0 lead, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg could not hold it, as Alex Bregman’s two-run homer made it a 2-2 game.
After Strasburg struck out the Astros’ leadoff batter, George Springer, on three pitches, Jose Altuve doubled to left, making it 22 consecutive postseason games in which he has reached base. He wasn’t there long, however; he got caught trying to steal third, with a strong throw from Kurt Suzuki and a quick tag by Anthony Rendon.
Michael Brantley then hit a two-out single, dropping the ball in front of Victor Robles in center field, bringing up the previously ice-cold Bregman. He proceeded to launch the ball 411 feet to left, tying the score at 2-2.
Strasburg recovered to retire Yuli Gurriel on a sharp grounder to third to end the inning.
Houston’s Justin Verlander started his day with an uncharacteristic four-pitch walk of Trea Turner. Adam Eaton then laced an 0-1 fastball into left for a single, and Verlander paid for putting two quick runners on base when Anthony Rendon crushed a double off the wall in left. Turner and Eaton scored, and Washington had a fast 2-0 lead.
That brought up Juan Soto, one of the heroes of Game 1, but Verlander struck out the powerful youngster. Verlander then got Howie Kendrick to fly out to right and escaped the inning without further damage by striking out Asdrubal Cabrera.
In a radio interview before Game 2, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow addressed the comments that his assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, has been accused of directing at a group of female reporters in the team’s clubhouse after the Astros clinched their berth in the World Series.
Taubman was said to have shouted at three female reporters in an “offensive and frightening” manner as he praised the team’s closer, Roberto Osuna, who was suspended for domestic violence last year. The Astros initially attempted to discredit the Sports Illustrated article that revealed the incident, but later backtracked under a hail of criticism — and after multiple reporters corroborated the details of the Sports Illustrated report.
Taubman apologized for his language on Tuesday, and Major League Baseball said it was investigating the incident. And while Luhnow apologized for the incident in the radio interview, he also seemed to cast doubt on whether the incident played out as reported.
“What we really don’t know is the intent behind the inappropriate comments he made,” Luhnow said of Taubman. “We may never know that because the person who said them and the people who heard them, at least up to this point, have different perspectives.”
The Nationals will use the same lineup that propelled them to victory in Game 1.
1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Adam Eaton, RF
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Howie Kendrick, DH
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
7. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Victor Robles, CF
The Astros went with the same basic lineup they used in Game 1, swapping in their normal starting catcher, Robinson Chirinos, for Martin Maldonado, who had started Game 1 because he is Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher.
1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Michael Brantley, LF
4. Alex Bregman, 3B
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Yordan Alvarez, DH
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Robinson Chirinos, C
9. Josh Reddick, RF
The Nationals, with a one-game lead in the series, will start Stephen Strasburg and the Astros, playing at home, will counter with Justin Verlander.
Strasburg and Verlander have both been superb throughout their careers, with Verlander holding a fairly distinct edge in terms of regular-season success. But in more limited postseason action, Strasburg has been far more effective. In seven postseason appearances (six starts), Strasburg has a 1.10 E.R.A. in 41 innings, with 57 strikeouts and only 5 walks. Verlander has not been bad in the postseason by any stretch, but in nearly a full regular season worth of postseason work (28 starts), he has put together numbers that closely resemble how he pitches in the regular season: a 3.26 E.R.A. in 176⅔ innings, with 196 strikeouts and 54 walks.
With his moonshot off Gerrit Cole in the fourth inning of Game 1, the 20-year-old Juan Soto became the third youngest player ever to homer in a World Series. But there’s no need to filter by age when trying to show how special of a game the Nationals’ outfielder had. He was only the seventh player of any age to have a World Series game in which he collected at least three hits, a home run and a stolen base. The feat was last accomplished by Moises Alou of the Marlins in Game 5 of the 1997 World Series.
George Springer was the center of a remarkable story line in 2017, capturing the World Series Most Valuable Player Award after having appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover in 2014 that declared Houston would be the 2017 champions. That sequence of events might have stretched the limits of a Hollywood story, but Springer, who homered and doubled in Game 1, has made it clear that his October success was not a fluke. Over the last three seasons, the center fielder has appeared in 38 postseason games, putting together a slash line of .282/.367/.590, while hitting 13 home runs. His 14 career postseason home runs have already set an Astros franchise record and have him tied for the 13th most in postseason history. He has homered in a record five consecutive World Series games.
Winning a road game at any point in the World Series is obviously huge for the Nationals, as it strips away Houston’s home field advantage. But winning Game 1 regardless of the park has been huge in recent years, since the team that won Game 1 has gone on to win 18 of the last 22 World Series. The Astros likely aren’t fretting, though: They lost Game 1 of the 2017 Series on the road but still beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
In 2005, Ryan Zimmerman was the first player drafted by the Nationals after the team moved to Washington from Montreal. He played only 67 games in the minors before being called up on Sept. 1 of that first season, and he has appeared in a franchise-high 1,689 regular season games since — 762 more than Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond, who are tied for second place. Zimmerman was there for Washington’s series of playoff failures in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017, and on Tuesday, when he finally got a chance to play in a World Series, he homered on the second pitch he saw. At 35, Zimmerman is in decline but his rising to the occasion reminded plenty of people of the night an injury-hampered David Wright homered for the Mets in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series. Zimmerman and Wright grew up playing for rival A.A.U. teams in Virginia and briefly played together on a showcase team that also featured the future big leaguers Mark Reynolds, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton.