Osuna gets Soto looking on a 98.5 mph fastball. The Astros take Game 3, 4-1. Houston notches their first win of the 2019 World Series and snaps the Nats' eight-game postseason winning streak.
In Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night at Nationals Park, the Astros came up with the big hits they needed while preventing the Nationals from doing the same. As a result, the Astros prevailed 4-1 (box score) and in doing so cut the Nationals' lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.
The Astros took the lead with four one-run innings against Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez. In the top of the second, Carlos Correa got into scoring position with one out thanks to a double. Josh Reddick then followed with a popup that dropped between left fielder Juan Soto and the left side of the infield. Correa got a great read on the ball and scored ahead of Soto's wild throw home.
In the third inning, Jose Altuve hit a leadoff double to left and advanced to third on Soto's fielding error. Altuve scored the second run of the game on an infield single by Michael Brantley. In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Zimmerman, after narrowly missing a home run down the line, worked a walk, and then Victor Robles brought him home with a triple for the Nationals' first run of Game 3. With one out, Washington manager Davey Martinez opted to let Sanchez hit for himself, and he was unable to put the ball in play. Trea Turner then grounded out, and the potential tying run was stranded at third.
In the top of the fifth, the Astros reestablished their two-run lead when Michael Brantley singled home Altuve, who had hit a one-out double. Then in the sixth, Robinson Chirinos pushed the lead to 4-1 with a solo home run off Sanchez. That score score would hold.
Zack Greinke started for the visiting Astros in what was basically a must-win for Houston, and he worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed only one run despite a great deal of traffic on the bases. Across the way, right-hander Sanchez took the mound for the Nats. In his last start, which came two weeks ago, he flirted with a no-hitter against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. He didn't enjoy similar results on Friday, as he allowed four earned on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings.
While the Nats had their opportunities in the middle and late innings -- just as they did in the early innings -- the Houston bullpen wound up getting it done. Four Astros relievers combined to work 4 1/3 scoreless innings to secure the Game 3 win. Will Harris, the Astros' best reliever during the regular season and postseason, registered a five-out appearance for the first time in 2019. The Nationals' bullpen also didn't allow a run after taking over for Sanchez.
Here's more on the Astros' first win of the 2019 Fall Classic.
Why the Astros won
While the Astros left 10 runners on base in Game 3, they also went 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position. That's a much-needed reversal of fortune for a team that struggled badly to drive in runners during the ALCS and entered this game 3 for 17 with RISP in the World Series.
Alex Bregman's struggles continued, but Jose Altuve, George Springer, Michael Brantley, and Robinson Chirinos all had two hits apiece. Josh Reddick and Brantley combined for three RBI hits, and, as noted, Chirinos hit the lone home run of Game 3.
Brantley's second RBI hit was in part abetted by plate ump Gary Cederstrom. What should have been strike three from Sanchez to Brantley instead got called as a ball:
On the very next pitch, Brantley hit a ground ball single to right to plate Altuve. That, however, played a relatively small role and doesn't undermine the Astros' victory to any meaningful extent.
As noted, the bullpen kept runs off the board in relief of Greinke, and the infield turned a key double play at one point.
Why the Nationals lost
They were the opposite of the Astros in Game 3. In Games 1 and 2, the Nats had enjoyed some timely knocks, but the key hit eluded them time and again in Game 3. In all, the Nats went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Game 3 with 12 runners left on base.
Framed another way, Washington tallied nine hits and five walks but pushed across only one run. They had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first six innings, and that had at least one runner on base in every inning except the seventh.
As mentioned above, Martinez made the somewhat curious decision to let his starting pitcher bat in a key spot in the fourth, with the potential tying run on third and one out. He struck out on three pitches (a bunt foul was strike three), and one out later Robles was stranded on third. Sanchez was coming up on his third time through one of the toughest batting orders in baseball, and not surprisingly things didn't go well for him from that point forward. Not pinch-hitting for Sanchez, when he was already looking vulnerable, felt like a mistake at the time, and in retrospect it was even more of an obvious mistake.
In the fifth, Asdrubal Cabrera ripped a two-out double off Greinke with the reasonably speedy Adam Eaton on first. Out in right field, Reddick played it perfectly off the wall, and hit the cutoff man on his throw to the plate. That prevented Eaton from scoring the Nats' second run of the game. Josh James replaced Greinke and struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat. That the Nats weren't able to score on Cabrera double felt at the time like one too many missed opportunities.
Play of the game
Let's console the Nats by giving them this one. This first inning catch by Victor Robles, who's one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, is one to appreciate.
Like the numbers say, your average bear doesn't make that snare.
Game 4 is on Saturday night at 8:07 p.m. ET back at Nationals Park. The Nats will be starting lefty Patrick Corbin, while the Astros will counter will a bullpen game. The series may at stake in this one. If the Astros win, then it in essence becomes a best-of-three series in which they have home-field advantage. If the Nats win, then they're up 3-1 and on the verge of the championship. Appointment viewing, people.