A World Series that never hit the heights in terms of in-game drama but taken in context as a series as a whole was remarkable ended last night with the massive underdog Washington Nationals triumphing in game 7 last night.
The most astonishing fact from the series is that the home team failed to win any of the seven games. Something that has never happened in any of the four major sports in the US. The road teams outscored the home teams ……… over the course of the series.
Having been swept at home over the weekend the Nationals needed to win both games back in Houston to win their first-ever World Series. Houston, who have been unusually inconsistent in the whole post-season saw their position of strength flip completely as a result of their game 6 loss. While the Astros were unable to field either of their ace pitchers in game 7 Washington had their number 1, Max Scherzer available in game 7. A difference that proved decisive.
Scherzer had been unable to make his scheduled start in game 5 on Sunday due to a neck spasm which meant he was barely able to move his head, let alone pitch in a pivotal World Series Game. But as ESPN’s Buster Olney said on Wednesday cortisone is the baseball pitcher’s best friend. Scherzer flew to Houston with his team mates on Monday, pronounced himself fit to throw in relief if needed in game 6 (he wasn’t) and started game 7.
Crucially that turn of events left Washington with what appeared to be a huge pitching advantage for the series decider given that the Astros starter, Zak Greinke has been a bust since his high-profile mid-season move to Texas. As it turned out Scherzer only lasted 5 innings but his 7 hit 2 run performance was the crucial bridge to his manager’s relief pitching
It was here that the series was decided. The under-rated Patrick Corbin threw three innings of shutout ball and Daniel Hudson did the same in the ninth. The Astros two-run lead at the end of the sixth morphed into a 4-run deficit by the top of the 9th. Greinke gave up a two-run home run in the 7th and his relief corps came apart at the seams allowing 4 runs off only 7 hits. Poor Will Harris who has been better than solid for the whole of the post-season was charged with the loss allowing two hits and conceding the go ahead run without getting a single batter out.
For Washington, who were appearing in the World Series for the first time in 86 years and who, having qualified for the playoffs as a wild card and have had to upset the odds in each round it was a dream come true. For Houston who appeared all season to be on the verge of greatness the nightmare of losing all four home games and seeing their twin aces win only one of their four starts will make this Halloween appear particularly scary.
Will the Astros be back next year? Yes. Even if as seems likely they lose Gerrit Cole to free agency they have such strength in depth to replace him and with their reputation for signing players and making them better will be seen as an attractive option for many. But it is off-field where they have most work to do to repair an HR reputation that was already tarnished by ex-employees further damaged by the bad handling of the actions of an executive VP.
For Washington thoughts of a repeat will be far from their thoughts as they rightly celebrate. They will reflect on having changed forever the franchises reputation of managing to lose in the post-season in the most unlikely ways and will now be seen as winners. Like the Boston Red Sox who ended an 86-year drought between titles the Nats will see it as well worth the wait.
And for Max Scherzer his heroics to even be on the field for game 7 will seal his place alongside the likes of fellow pitchers Curt Schilling and Madison Bumgarner as one of the giants of the baseball post-season.