Astros’ wheels come spinning off, Nationals win World Series Game 2, 12-3

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The Astros’ wheels came spinning off in the seventh inning of World Series Game 2, as two costly misplays by Alex Bregman and poor pitching led to the Nationals breaking a 2-2 tie with a six-run outburst. The Nationals went on to win 12-3 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Both sides traded two-spots in the first inning off of Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. In the top half, Verlander allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base on a Trea Turner walk, an Adam Eaton single, and an Anthony Rendon two-run double. Bregman answered back in the bottom half with a long two-run home run to tie the game.

The starters would settle down from there, otherwise putting up zeroes through the sixth inning. Strasbug threw 114 pitches over his six innings of work, allowing the two runs on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

Verlander returned for a seventh inning of work and that’s when all hell broke loose. Kurt Suzuki broke the 2-2 tie with a leadoff solo home run to left field. Verlander followed up by walking Victor Robles, which forced manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to call in reliever Ryan Pressly. Pressly walked Turner to put runners on first and second with no outs. Eaton advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. The Astros saw light at the end of the tunnel when Rendon hit a fly ball to very shallow center field that did not allow Robles an opportunity to score. However, Howie Kendrick proceeded to hit a weak ground ball to Bregman’s left side. Bregman couldn’t corral it, so a run scored and Kendrick reached safely. The game was officially broken open when Asdrúbal Cabrera laced a single to center field to bring two more runs home and bring up Ryan Zimmerman. Pressly uncorked a wild pitch during the at-bat, which moved the runners up a base each, then got Zimmerman to hit a slow grounder down the third base line. Bregman barehanded the ball but made a poor throw wide of first base. Two more runs scored to make it 8-2. Mercifully, the inning would end with no further damage.

Reliever Fernando Rodney took over for Strasburg in the bottom half of the seventh, working around a leadoff walk to put up another zero.

The Nationals continued to pound the Astros in the top of the eighth. Robles led off with a strikeout but reached first base safely on a dropped third strike. After Turner struck out, Eaton lined a two-run home run to right field to officially put the Nats in double-digits at 10-2. But wait, there’s more. Rendon struck out, Soto walked, Kendrick singled, Cabrera singled to make it 11-2.

Tanner Rainey worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth. Michael A. Taylor jacked a solo homer in the top of the ninth for good measure. You know, just in case the Astros put up a 10-spot in the bottom of the ninth. Hey, the Cardinals hung a 10-spot on the Braves in the NLDS, so you never know.

Javy Guerra took the mound in the ninth inning, a rare low-leverage spot for the Nats’ bullpen. With one out, Martín Maldonado tried to jump-start a rally by swatting a bullet of a solo homer to left-center field, reducing the deficit to 12-3. The Astros would put two more runners on thanks to a throwing error by Rendon and a single by José Altuve, but pinch-hitter Jake Marisnick grounded out to end the game.

The Astros will mercifully have Thursday off to think things over on the way to Washington, D.C. They will resume battle with the Nationals on Friday night. Zack Grienke will square off against Aníbal Sánchez.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).