The Astros couldn’t be lower right now. Both of their aces were beaten at home, back-to-back, and that’s the first time that has happened all year. Their front office is freakin’ turmoil and now they need to win at least two of three on the road to even get the series back home to Minute Maid Park for a puncher’s chance at this thing. Sure, a lot of teams have come back from being down 0-2, but none in the World Series since 1996.
If you change that to being down 0-2 after two home games, you can find only three times a club has pulled it off: the 1985 Royals, the 1986 Mets and those 1996 Yankees. The Royals needed the help of a huge umpiring mistake. The Mets needed a Game 6 miracle and a ball to go through Bill Buckner’s legs. If the Astros go down 0-3 even a miracle may not be enough.
For Washington, of course, a win tonight all but ensures that champagne will flow eventually. Aníbal Sánchez will attempt to at least bring out the glasses and put the bottles on ice this evening in the hopes that Patrick Corbin can uncork ’em tomorrow.
The Game: World Series Game 3: Houston Astros vs. Washington Nationals
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Ballpark: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
The Network: Fox
The Starters: Zack Greinke vs. Aníbal Sánchez
Originally the idea was to use Patrick Corbin in Game 3 and Sánchez in Game 4, but Dave Martinez deployed Corbin as a reliever in Game 1. In order to give Corbin a tad more rest — or to have him be available as a reliever again in Game 2 if necessary — he moved Sánchez up a day to take this start.
That doesn’t make much difference I don’t think in that Sánchez (a) is still on an extraordinary amount of rest, having not pitched in two weeks; and (b) has been pretty fantastic of late. He has pitched twice in the playoffs, tossing 12.2 innings while allowing only one earned run on five hits while striking out 14 and issuing only three free passes. He has given the Nats a fourth starter in which they can be confident and that, for some reason, hasn’t been a super common occurrence in recent postseasons.
For the Astros it’s all on Zack Greinke’s shoulders. An ace for most of his career, he has been less than ace-like this October, having allowed ten earned runs in 14 innings across three starts (6.43 ERA). Greinke faced the Nationals once earlier this year, back on June 13 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That day he allowed just two hits over seven and a third scoreless innings. The Astros will need that sort of performance from him tonight.
Really, though, the onus is now on the Astros’ offense. Partially because, without their two best pitchers going and their recently-shaky third starter on the hill, they’ll naturally need to score more runs. Mostly, though, because the offense has gone relatively AWOL during the postseason. The team has scored 48 runs in 13 postseason games, for an average of 3.7 per game. Their collective batting line: .216/.292/.370 over 489 plate appearances. Houston averaged 5.7 runs per game during the regular season. They need to do better.
A 0-2 hole is hard to overcome but it can be done. Go down 0-3 and the party is basically over. For Houston, it’s not dark get, but it’s gettin’ there.