Once Juan Soto tied the game with a fourth-inning home run to become the fourth-youngest player to round the bases in a World Series Game, the visiting Washington Nationals rode the momentum to a series-opening, 5-4 win.
Over the 115-year history of the World Series, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the rest of the series 71 times including 13 of the last 16 with the most recent trend-breaker being the 2017 Astros.
Houston broke open the pitcher’s duel in the very first inning thanks to a two-run double from Yuli Gurriel which marked a franchise record with it being his 12th career postseason double. That run-scoring hit also broke an 0-for-17 streak that Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer had built up against opposing batters hitting with runners in scoring position.
The hosts were held off the scoreboard again until the seventh inning, however, leaving seven men on base although they did make the starter use a lot of pitches. Washington manager Dave Martinez went to the bullpen after Scherzer’s five innings of work where he allowed five hits, the two earned runs and three walks while striking out seven on 112 pitches.
Houston hitters got a look a four of the Nationals’ relievers including Patrick Corbin, Tanner Rainey, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, the last of whom earned the save after 1.1 innings, and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve talked about earning some of those looks early in the series.
“We took some really good at-bats, the pitch count for Scherzer was really high in the fifth inning and he was out of the game early so those are some really good things we'll take to the next game,” he said. “We still have a lot of games to play; sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other team they played really good today and they ended up winning the game.”
On the other side, Houston starter Gerrit Cole lasted seven innings, allowing all five earned runs on eight hits and a walk over seven innings where he also struck out six batters on a night where he knew he wasn’t his best.
“I didn't have my A-game tonight and outside of a few pitches that tagged on a couple of runs we worked well with what we had,” he said. “These are the best two teams in the world right now so you try to not beat yourself up too much, especially if you've got to grind in those situations. You can't take for granted that Justin (Verlander, the Game 2 starter,) has the propensity to throw seven or eight innings so it feels good to get deep and not have to stretch anyone out (leaving us) in a good position for tomorrow, especially with Justin on the mound.”
Soto was the one who tagged on a couple of extra runs with a two-run double of his own in the fifth inning which put Washington ahead, 5-2, and made him the ninth player in MLB history to record at least three hits and three RBIs in his World Series debut.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first draft pick from 2005, lifted the first home run of the 2019 World Series in the second inning and with both he and Soto going yard, Washington became the first team in World Series history to have a player 35 years-or-older and a player 20 years-or-younger each hit a home run in the same game, according to STATS Inc.
“First at-bat to hit a home run and run around the bases, you're kind of almost floating around the bases,” Zimmerman admitted. “To be able to do that is obviously what you work for. It's what not only what you sacrifice for but what your family sacrifices for. That's why you play the game, to play on the biggest stage. And to be able to get some runs off a guy like Gerrit, that guy has been the best pitcher in baseball for the last, whatever, four months. He's a special pitcher and I have a feeling we're going to see him again. We respect the heck out of them and we know we've got a long way to go.”
He was not that far off when describing Cole as the best for an extended period as Tuesday night’s loss served as the first time the Astros lost a game he started since May 22 although he has compiled 43 strikeouts compared to just four walks in his four career postseason starts at Minute Maid Park.
George Springer nearly sparked a comeback in the seventh inning with a no-doubt home run to left field for his fifth consecutive postseason game with a dinger, extending an MLB record over some esteemed company although he would have preferred to come away with a different statistic.
“I'd rather win; I don't really care, (it’s) cool great yeah, but I'd rather win,” he said.
Game 2 will be played right back at Minute Maid Park with Justin Verlander getting the ball to start the game against Stephen Strasburg with a scheduled start-time of 7:08 p.m. in a situation these Astros aren’t so unfamiliar with.
“We've been in this situation before and tomorrow is a new day,” Altuve said.
“(Justin’s) one of the best pitchers in the world too, he's been unbelievable all year again and I have the utmost faith in him and the rest of our guys,” Springer added. “We just have to move on and see what happens tomorrow.”