Astros Take Advantage of Nats R and R

The Nationals bullpen has been decent in these playoffs, but it imploded on Saturday night. The Astros took advantage of five walks in the seventh inning from Tanner Rainey and Fernando Rodney and a grand slam from Alex Bregman to erupt for four runs to bury the Nationals 8-1. Astros starter Jose Urquidy also did the unexpected, giving the Astros five shutout innings in what was supposed to be a bullpen start.

It was essentially over after the first inning. Patrick Corbin struck out the leadoff hitter George Springer. After that the Astros stringed together four consecutive hits from Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel to score two runs. For Bregman he would end the day with five RBIs. A walk to Carlos Correa loaded the bases, but the Nationals averted disaster when Robinson Chirinos grounded into a 5-3 double play, Rendon stepping on third to get the first out and throwing to first to retire Chirinos.

Chirinos would not be so kind in the fourth inning when he took Corbin deep into the left field bleachers for a two run homer. Carlos Correa had started the inning with his second walk of the game. He would end up walking three times in the game.

The Nationals could not figure out Urquidy. He gave up just two hits in his five innings of work. The only time he got into trouble was in the third when Yan Gomes led off the inning with a double. Corbin tried to advance him to third with a bunt but hit it too hard to the pitcher and Gomes was forced to stay while Corbin was thrown out. Trea Turner grounded out to first, advancing Gomes to third. Too little too late with Adam Eaton popping to short to end the inning.

The Nationals were finally able to score after Urquidy was pulled. Josh James started the sixth and walked two of the first three hitters he faced. The Astros then turned to Will Harris, who was making his 10th post season appearance. In his first nine he had not given up an earned run, two shy of the record for post season appearances without allowing an earned run. Harris gave up an infield single to Anthony Rendon that glanced off the leg of Harris. With the bases loaded and one out Juan Soto hit an easy grounder to Gurriel, who made the play at first, allowing the run to score. Howie Kendrick swung and missed at a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh the Nationals bullpen let the game get away. Tanner Rainey walked the first two hitters he faced. He got Jose Altuve to fly to right, but Dave Martinez went to Fernando Rodney to get the last two outs. Rodney failed. Michael Brantley singled into center to load the bases. Bregman then deposited Rodney’s second pitch deep into the left field bleachers for a grand slam. Rodney seemed to lose it after that, walking three batters, but he was able to get the last two outs without allowing the Astros to score another run.

Secure with an 8-1 lead the Astros finished the game with Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski to get the last six outs.

Game Notes: Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman were awarded the relievers of the year prior to the game. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera were present to issue them the award. Only Aroldis made an appearance. After losing the wild card game Josh Hader was a no show at Nationals park…Frank Howard was introduced at the game. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Howard is now relegated to a wheel chair. Attendance was announced at 43,889, 22 more than last night. Two standing room only fans took advantage of the two seats next to me. They paid more for their standing room only seat than myworld paid for section 300 seats. Those $164 seats were going for $1,200 or more on stub hub…Jose Urquidy became the second pitcher to make his starting debut in the post season without allowing a run. Jon Lester (2007) was the first. Urquidy also became the second Mexican pitcher to get a victory in a World Series game. Fernando Valenzuela was the first (1981). And in a final Urquidy buzz, he had more 1-2-3 inning in his five innings than Scherzer, Strasburg, Verlander and Cole had in their starts…The Astros are the best team hitting lefty starters. They are 38-11 when facing lefty starters during the regular season and now 3-1 in the playoffs. The fact they are also the best hitting team against pitchers with sliders and Corbin’s signature pitch is his slider made it a tough match for Corbin.

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