World Series Game 6 Preview: Do Astros take it back?

Justin Verlander
Getty Images
4 Comments

The task is pretty simple for the Astros: win tonight or tomorrow night and they’re World Series champs.

For that matter it’s pretty straightforward for the Nationals too: lose again and your season is over. The “not losing again” thing, of course, is less simple to pull off.

But doing difficult things is not impossible, especially in this World Series. Just last Friday morning the Astros were staring the possibility of 0-3 in the face and were about to play three games on the road. All they did was outscore the Nationals 19-3 over those three games and win them all, one victory of which came with a rookie starter on the hill. The Nationals now have their co-ace, Stephen Strasburg on the hill and — pending his health — could send out Max Scherzer in a winner-take-all Game 7 should Strasburg prevail tonight.

But first the Nats bats, in a deep freeze since the middle of last week, need to wake up. And they need to do it against Justin Verlander.

The GameWorld Series Game 6: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Ballpark: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
The Network: Fox
The Starters: Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander

The Upshot:

It’s doable. Verlander is just 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA this postseason and last time out, in Game 2, he coughed up four runs on seven hits in six innings to take the L. Strasburg, meanwhile, is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in October and tossed six strong innings in that Game 2 win.

For all that Verlander did in the regular season, he seems pretty mortal at the moment. And he is 0-5 with a 5.73 ERA over six career World Series starts. Streaks like that are made to be broken — Verlander has simply had slow starts to games and you feel like he’s one adjustment away from, you know, not doing that — but the Nats have gotten to him before and can at least have some confidence that they can get to him again.

Obviously, though, it all comes down to the Washington bats. Trea Turner has been cold as ice at the top of the lineup. Anthony Rendon is not getting the job done either. Juan Soto homered on Sunday night after going 0-for-Games 3 and 4, but he’ll need to put together a full game himself. Nothing Strasburg can do on the hill tonight will matter if the Nationals’ offensive woes continue. They simply have to hit the ball again.

If they do — and if Strasburg keeps things close — it will be all-hands-on-deck out of the Washington bullpen. Figure to see Game 4 starter Patrick Corbin in relief. Pending Max Scherzer’s health he could either be used for a short relief stint tonight or — and this would be risky — Aníbal Sánchez could be used in relief with Scherzer held for a Game 7 start. That seems rather unlikely as, if you do that, and he has more neck spasms, the Nats would be without good options in a Game 7. And heck, Scherzer may not be able to pitch at all given how debilitated he was on Sunday. I’m just pointing out that, when a team’s back is up against the wall, every option is on the table, so if Game 6 is close, Dave Martinez needs to do absolutely everything he can to get to Game 7 and hope to figure out how to deal with it tomorrow.

Which is to say: Game 6 could be a wild one.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
7 Comments

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.