The Astros fell in a massive 0-2 hole in the World Series losing 12-3 to the Washington Nationals Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park. The Nationals put up six in the seventh inning, most off reliever Ryan Pressley on tough luck infield hits, a wild pitch and an uncharacteristic throwing error by Alex Bregman.
Justin Verlander went six innings giving up four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and four walks. His counterpart, Max Strasburg, also went six innings with seven hits and seven strikeouts but only gave up two.
Teams exchanged a pair of runs in the first inning with the Astros getting a two-run blast from Alex Bregman, but they were crushed by a seventh inning avalanche.
It was light hitting catcher Kurt Suzuki who got things going with a solo homer to start the inning. He finally closed it out with the third out but not before five more runs had scored. The only run the Astros scored after the first inning was a bottom-of-the-ninth homer by Martin Maldonado. And that was that. Here are four thoughts.
The difference in this series so far is how well the teams have done with runners in scoring position. The Astros have been awful and the Nationals have been decent. Again on Wednesday, the Astros left men on base in critical situations and couldn't manage a hit when it mattered, while the Nationals flourished.
The Astros weren't exactly world beaters in that category during the season, but they weren't terrible either. Still, their ability to get runs across the plate has fallen off a cliff in the postseason. On Wednesday, without the benefit of near perfect pitching to cover for their anemic hitting, they just couldn't muster the runs to keep up.
Justin Verlander breaks an unfortunate record.
JV will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he broke a rather dubious record with his loss on Wednesday night. Verlander became the first pitcher in Major League history to lose his first five starts in the World Series. It's ironic considering in Game 1 George Springer hit his fifth straight homer in a World Series game, breaking a record previous held by Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson.
Verlander managed to get a ring anyway in 2017, but his shot at a second grew rather dim after Wednesday night's loss. Given how things are going, he might not pitch again in this series.
Astros continue to struggle on offense.
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It's remarkable that one of the best teams in the league on offense has been absolutely stymied in the postseason at the plate. A team that was so clutch with its hitting in 2017 seems like it reverted to 2018 when they had problems with injuries that led to difficulties at the plate. Only two players have an OPS above .750, Jose Altuve (1.105) and Alex Bregman (.796). Altuve is the only regular averaging over .300. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick are hitting below .200.
The have definitely faced some very good pitching throughout the playoffs, but it is difficult to reconcile the really poor hitting by guys who have been there before and found ways to get hits. Even with some difficult pitching outings, it remains the most perplexing problem for this Astros team.
Coming back from 0-2 is unlikely.
Only three teams in major league history have lost the first two games at home and came back to win the World Series. Three. The last one was the 1996 Yankees. Given the roll that the Nationals are on and their incredible pitching performances, it is difficult to imagine a miracle comeback. Stranger things have happened (it happened here in 1995 to the Houston Rockets), but don't bet on it.