World Series Game 6 takeaways: Astros' Justin Verlander comes up short again in Fall Classic vs. Nationals
The Washington Nationals have forced a Game 7 against the Houston Astros
On Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, the Washington Nationals won a wild and at times controversial Game 6 of the World Series over the Houston Astros by a score of 7-2 (box score). With the win, the Nationals have forced a deciding Game 7 back in Houston on Wednesday night.
Now for some takeaways from Game 6.
1. Verlander's first-inning hiccups continued
Justin Verlander once again took some damage in the first inning. In the top of the first, Trea Turner notched an infield single (ruled out on the field but safe upon review), and then Adam Eaton bunted him to second (Eaton was attempting to bunt for a hit). Then with one out, Anthony Rendon bounced a ground-ball single to right field, and the speedy Turner came around to score.
Verlander also allowed first-inning runs in his prior two playoff starts -- two in his Game 2 start against the Nats and four in his ALCS Game 5 start against the Yankees. It's also something of a tendency of his. Over the course of his regular season career, Verlander has an ERA of 3.33 overall but an ERA of 3.89 in the first inning. Only in the eighth inning has his ERA been higher, when things like fatigue and the times through the order penalty are in play. Once again, the first inning proved challenging for Verlander.
2. And he again had a subpar World Series start
Verlander came into Game 6 with a career World Series ERA of 5.73 in six starts. It's no exaggeration to call him one of the worst World Series starters ever over a similar simple and insofar as run prevention is concerned. In Game 6, Verlander did nothing to flip that particular script:
Those two home runs allowed give him eight allowed for the 2019 postseason. That ties Clayton Kershaw in 2017 for the most homers allowed in any single postseason. There's also this:
Verlander's the likely AL Cy Young winner this year and a future Hall of Famer, but his results across seven World Series starts have been disastrous by his usual standards.
3. Strasburg was excellent
Stephen Strasburg continues to be a postseason dominator. Here's his line from Game 6
As you may have noticed, Strasburg pitched in the ninth, and in doing so he became the first World Series starter to throw a pitch in the ninth inning since Matt Harvey in 2015. Those two runs came in the first, and afterward Strasburg began fluttering his glove in the set position to keep Astros hitters from possibly recognizing what was coming. Give a listen:
That wrinkle plus, you know, elite pitching skills carried him the rest of the way.
Strasburg came into this one with a 1.34 ERA in 47 postseason innings. This postseason, he came into Game 6 with 40 strikeouts against only one unintentional walk. Mull over that for a moment. In matters related:
This of course comes after what was one of Strasburg's strongest regular seasons.
4. Controversy reigned in the seventh
With one on and no out in the top of the seventh, Trea Turner of the Nats hit a weak grounder to the left side. Astros pitcher Brad Peacock pounced on it and fired to first base. Turner, taking a fairly routine "hustle" path up the first base line, ran into the glove of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, and the ball scooted away. Instead of having runners at second and third with no outs, however, the umps stepped in and ruled that Turner interfered with Gurriel on the play.
At this point we should probably just roll tape:
Our own R.J. Anderson has. Most would agree it was a bad call on the part of plate ump Sam Holbrook.
The Nats requested to play the game under protest because of misapplication of the rules, but being that the call in question was one of umpire judgement they were not permitted to do so.
5. The seventh inning got even wilder
Soon after the on-field delay ended and Turner was indeed ruled out, Anthony Rendon filed one under "ball don't lie":
That made it 5-2 and for the Nats erased some of the pain from the Turner call. Manager Dave Martinez, however, was not pacified:
He became just the 23rd uniformed participant to be ejected from a World Series game. As for Rendon, he later made a nifty play in the field and then added a two-run double in the ninth to give the Nats more insurance.
6. Bregman and Soto had a "bat carry" battle
Alex Bregman and Juan Soto are two of the best young players in baseball, and they both showed their excellence and youthful bravado in Game 6 and did so in very similar ways. Bregman in the first hit a solo shot off Stephen Strasburg to give the Astros the lead:
Yes, he carried the bat all the way to first base not unlike an eight-year-old who can't believe he just hit the baseball. This, by the way, is not condemnation -- carry that bat if you want to carry that bat, young thunderclap.
Let's leap ahead in the action to the top of the fifth. Juan Soto absolutely suplexed this up-and-away fastball from Verlander:
And, yes, he carried the bat to first base. Who wore it best?
7. Soto also made history
With that blast you saw above, Soto, who is 21 years and four days old, became the youngest player ever to hit three home runs in a World Series. That was also his fifth home run of the 2019 postseason, which is a record for a single postseason by a player age 21 or younger. Soto owns a career OPS+ of 140, so yes he is indeed a special player.
8. The road team won again
The Nats' win in Game 6 means that the road team has won every game in this series. That's never happened before the sprawl of World Series history. This seems especially notable given that the Astros were 60-21 at home during the regular season and then 5-1 at home in the postseason coming into the World Series.
9. Game 7 comes next
For the fourth time in the last six seasons, we'll have a Game 7 of the World Series. Max Scherzer is a go following his neck injury, and he'll be opposed by Zack Greinke. Really, though, it's the final game of the season no matter what, so it's all hands on deck on both sides. Typically, the home team wins 54 percent of the time or so, but that certainly hasn't been the trend in this World Series. As for Scherzer, he'll be going on seven days' rest, but you have to wonder whether he's truly 100 percent after being scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start because of neck spasms.
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