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Astros Drop Game 2 to the Nationals 12-3 in a Late-Game Meltdown

The first six innings looked like a pitchers’ duel between two aces battling back from early-game struggles. The last three looked like something else entirely.

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

For the first two-thirds of the game, it looked like the Astros might be able to fight back and even up the World Series at a game apiece. The last third of the game…was less than ideal, and the Astros will be heading to Washington down two games to none.

Things went south pretty quickly for Justin Verlander. Trea Turner worked a four-pitch walk, Adam Eaton drove a single the other way, then Anthony Rendon shocked his hometown crowd with a two-run double off the Crawford Boxes. Just like that, Verlander was down 2-0 with no outs recorded.

But he buckled down. Rendon was stranded on a popup and a couple of Ks, and the Astros had a chance to comeback. Two runs is nothing for an offense like Houston’s, right?

Right! Michael Brantley worked a two-out single, then Alex Bregman launched one even further than Rendon, hitting his first homer of the 2019 World Series. Unfortunately, it still carried the feeling of a missed opportunity: Jose Altuve actually hit a one-out double before all that, but was easily thrown out trying to steal third on the first pitch to Brantley. Still, all of that first inning offense felt like a good omen for a lineup that’s looked overmatched as of late.

Justin Verlander picked up where he left off in the second, adding to his Cooperstown resume in the process: his second strikeout of the inning moved him past John Smoltz, making him the all-time postseason leader and the first pitcher in history with 200 playoff strikeouts. He would mostly continue in that vein, making it through six relatively uneventful innings. Unfortunately, he also started the seventh, but we’ll get to that.

Unfortunately, the offense stopped picking up runs for him. In the third, a two-out rally started on Altuve reaching on an error and Brantley singling, but Bregman grounded out on the first pitch he saw. In the third, Yordan Álvarez notched a one-out single, but was left on base. The fifth, Altuve added a two-out single that went nowhere.

But the sixth was incredibly painful. After a Yuli Gurriel two out double, Washington opted to intentionally walk Yordan, setting up a two-on, one-out situation. But Stephen Strasburg locked things down, getting Correa to pop up and pinch hitter Kyle Tucker to strike out, both on full counts.

That missed opportunity probably wasn’t the reason the wheels came off in the seventh, but it definitely didn’t help matters. The first batter of the inning, Kurt Suzuki, launched Verlander’s 100th pitch of the game into the stands to retake the lead, 3-2. Victor Robles worked a full-count walk, and that was it for Verlander.

Ryan Pressley came in, and it looked like things might cool down. Turner worked another full-count walk, but Adam Eaton contributed a free out via sac bunt. He managed to get Rendon to popup to center field, and George Springer’s positioning and arm deterred Robles from taking home. 3-2, Houston could get out of this and come back. Juan Soto received the first Astros intentional walk of the year, but that felt like a reasonable risk. Howie Kendrick hit a ball towards Alex Bregman, the type of play he’s made dozens of times this year, and…

Oof. 4-2, Nationals. It just kept going down hill from there. Asdrubel Cabrera singled to center, 6-2. Ryan Zimmerman hits a weak ball up the line, 7-2. Bregman throws it away trying to make the play at first, 8-2. Kurt Suzuki finally made the final out in the rally he started after Josh James came in, but the air had been sucked out of the stadium at that point.

Even with Washington’s bullpen struggles, they weren’t too worried about a six-run lead. Fernando Rodney came in for Strasburg, who ended up outdueling Verlander with 6.0 innings of two-run ball, with seven Ks and a well-scattered seven hits and a walk.

The eighth inning somehow discovered even more wheels to come off the Astros’ wagon, and Adam Eaton followed up Robles reaching on a passed ball third strike with a two-run homer. They continued hitting after that, with another run coming in that inning and Michael A. Taylor hitting a solo shot in the ninth to give the Nationals 12 runs on the night.

Martín Maldonado hit his own solo shot in the ninth to make it 12-3, but that’s all the Astros would manage. They were out-hit, out-pitched, out-defensed, out-everything. Hopefully the day off gives them time to regroup and look more like the team that won 107 games during the regular season, because down 2-0 and about to head out on the road, they’re going to need to be that good to come back. Game 3 will be Friday at 7:07 PM Central Time, with Zack Greinke taking the mound in Washington against Aníbal Sánchez.