MLB World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has agreed a seven-year contract to return to the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals announced the news on Monday in what is reported to be a record deal for a pitcher, coming in at $245million.

Strasburg was key to the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in October, securing the franchise's first World Series title before entering free agency.

A three-time All-Star and 2012 Silver Slugger, Strasburg started Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two walks in 14.3 innings of work.

"We are very excited to welcome Stephen Strasburg and his family back to the Washington Nationals," said Nationals managing principal Owner Mark D Lerner.

"His tremendous talent, work ethic and leadership have been a staple of our organisation since the day we selected him in the 2009 MLB Draft.

"We would not have won the 2019 World Series or accomplished everything we have these last 10 seasons if not for Stephen's many contributions."

Strasburg is fifth on the all-time list for MLB strikeouts with 1,603.

United States president Donald Trump welcomed MLB World Series champions the Washington Nationals to the White House.

The Nationals' celebrations continued on Monday as Washington took to the White House steps with Trump in DC.

Washington claimed their first World Series in franchise history after topping the Houston Astros in seven games and Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman presented Trump with his own jersey.

"America fell in love with Nats baseball. That's all they wanted to talk about," Trump said amid an impeachment inquiry. "That and impeachment. I like Nats baseball much more."

"For the first time in nearly 100 years, our nation's capital is celebrating a World Series victory," Trump said. "The last time Washington, DC, was home to the World Series champs the president was a man named Calvin Coolidge."

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle did not attend the ceremony, while Anthony Rendon, Victor Robles, Michael Taylor, Joe Ross, Javy Guerra and Wander Suero were also absent.

Zimmerman praised Trump by saying: "What an unbelievable honour to be here. This is an incredible honour that I think all of us will never forget.

"We'd also like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country, and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in the world."

Trump also embraced Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, who donned a "Make America Great Again" hat.

"I love him! Awww," Trump said before adding, "I didn't know that was going to happen."

 

The Washington Nationals are the newly crowned world champions in baseball, the NFL's trade deadline is boring and an injury to Stephen Curry has left Golden State in a hole

A lot has certainly happened this week - learn more below.

 

1. Washington Nationals come from behind to win World Series

This was not supposed to happen. The Nationals started the year 19-31 but made the playoffs in the National League on a wildcard berth. But still, they had to face an Astros team with home-field advantage that won 107 games and 61 at home in 2019. Washington were not supposed to win a title.

But, after falling behind 3-2 in the series, the Nationals won two straight games over the Astros at Minute Maid Park coming from behind in both games to take the first championship in the history of the organisation.

The Astros won 117 games in total in 2019 but it just was not quite enough. Stephen Strasburg was named the World Series MVP after winning two games while Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto were huge contributors as well. Now the eyes of MLB turn to the postseason where Strasburg has a chance to be a free agent while Astros ace Gerrit Cole absolutely will be.

 

2. What a boring deadline

The NFL is not the NBA or MLB. The league does not have a crazy eventful trade deadline, but after a 2018 year full of moves we thought we were going to have some drama on Tuesday. Instead, when it was all said and done, there was just one trade made before things wrapped up.

There were plenty of trades that happened leading up to the deadline, as Jalen Ramsey went to the Rams and Marcus Peters went to the Ravens, but all in all, this one was kind of boring. Teams appear happy to stand pat and hope their rosters are good enough to win titles already.

 

3. Stephen Curry breaks hand

For the Golden State Warriors, this season just went from bad to worse. After starting out 1-2, Golden State were simply trying to get a win against a surprisingly competitive Phoenix Suns team in the early going. But what they actually got was a loss and an injury to their star player.

Stephen Curry broke his hand on a bad fall on Wednesday and he may be out for an extended period of time because of the injury. The Warriors were already going to be without Klay Thompsonfor the majority of the year, but now they will also be without the two-time MVP for an extended period of time.

D'Angelo Russell will likely have to lead a team of rookies and youngsters for the next few months, which is not the news the Golden State fans thought they were going to get before the year started.

 

4. UFC 244 already full of drama

While UFC 244 was actually pretty tame in the weeks leading up to it, with main event competitors Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal very respectful to each another, the drama really kicked up a notch in the last week.

First, Diaz announced he would not be fighting after he was told he tested for elevated levels of a banned substance. He said he would not compete if his name was not immediately cleared. Then, in the last couple of days, Liverpool's Darren Till ran into visa issues which put his fight with Kelvin Gastelum at risk as well.

But, it appears things have calmed down as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the UFC almost instantly cleared Diaz and Till has reportedly overcome his visa issues while landing in New York on Thursday.

It's been a very dramatic week ahead of what promises to be an awesome fight weekend.

Stephen Strasburg conceded the Washington Nationals needed to be "punched in the face" to spur them on to their maiden World Series title.

The Nationals rallied from a 3-2 series deficit against the Houston Astros to win Games 6 and 7 in Texas, having also trailed as late as the eighth inning in the National League wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in the postseason.

Strasburg was key and, after Washington's 6-2 triumph on Wednesday, the pitcher was named World Series MVP after superb performances in Games 2 and 6.

Overall, the 31-year-old went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, with 47 strikeouts and four walks in 36.3 innings pitched across six appearances in the playoffs.

Washington also had to deal with an injury to Max Scherzer, who pitched despite suffering with neck spasms in the days leading up to Game 7 and Strasburg has credited the team's never-say-die attitude as the reason for their first-ever championship success.

"It's almost like we've done it so many times, we have to get punched in the face before we wake up," Strasburg told a news conference. 

"It's the M.O. We don't quit and we never quit throughout the season despite everybody saying that we were done."

Selected as the first pick by Washington in the 2009 MLB Draft, three-time All-Star Strasburg suffered a serious injury early in his Nats career, missing over a season.

"Through all that adversity I think I've learned a lot about myself," Strasburg said.

"When you have the ups and downs you can learn just as much from the downs as you can the ups. I think everything happens for a reason.

"I've learned to focus on the things I can control, I've learned I'm a perfectionist, a control freak. In this game it's very hard to be perfect and control things, but what you can control is your approach, when you go out there and compete it's about execution."

Strasburg also hailed Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman, who has spent his entire career with Washington.

"He's been here since day one, it seems like just yesterday that I was drafted and he was out there handing me my jersey," he added.

"I'm so happy for him and his family because he's the face of the franchise. He's dealt with losing seasons, he's been there through it all, dealt with his fair share of adversity so for us to come together as a group and get it done is awesome."

The Washington Nationals clinched their first World Series title after beating the Houston Astros 6-2.

Wednesday's Game 7 victory guided the Nationals to an historic MLB triumph over the Astros.

The Nationals rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to win Games 6 and 7 in Houston and shock the 107-win Astros.

After trailing as late as the eighth inning in the National League wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this postseason, the Nationals regrouped and are now champions.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Astros in World Series Game 7

Max Scherzer bent, but didn't break

After dealing with neck and back spasms in the days leading up to Game 7, Max Scherzer took the mound for Washington with their season on the line and did what he was asked.

Despite traffic on the base paths all night, Scherzer managed to limit the damage to just two runs in his five innings of work. He consistently found ways to get the Astros' hitters out on a night when he did not have his best stuff. 

The 35-year-old allowed seven hits and two earned runs, while striking out three and walking four before Patrick Corbin relieved him at the start of the sixth inning. His performance is all the more remarkable considering the injury he was dealing with was so painful he reportedly wore a neck brace on the team's flight to Houston on Monday.

Home-field advantage was a myth

They call it home-field advantage for a reason. But this World Series proved the exact opposite.

Washington's win marks the first instance of the road team winning every game in a postseason series in MLB history. It is such a rare phenomenon the feat had never been pulled off in any postseason series in either the NHL or NBA either.

The Nationals might as well have called Minute Maid Park home because Nationals Park was anything but this series. Washington scored three runs combined in Games 3, 4 and 5 in D.C. while in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7, they scored 30.

Washington also posted an 8-1 record on the road this postseason, including eight straight after dropping Game 1 of the National League Division Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Washington's bullpen were rock solid

Once Washington manager Dave Martinez handed the game over to his bullpen, the contest was over.

Corbin and Daniel Hudson combined for four shut-out innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven and walking none. Over the 35 at-bats Houston saw on the night, they left a collective 10 runners on base and plated just two runs. 

While the Astros' hitters left much to be desired with their performance at the plate these last two games, much can be said about how good Washington's bullpen were.

The victory is even sweeter for Hudson, who was released by the Los Angeles Angels in March and then spent most of the season with the Toronto Blue Jays before he was dealt to the Nationals at the trade deadline.

In hindsight, the deal to acquire Hudson and the signing of Corbin in free agency have paid dividends for the Nats.

"Take it back".

It is not a complicated slogan. But it is one the Houston Astros took on before this year signifying one thing: they wanted to take the title back after failing to repeat as World Series champions in 2018.

Taking that into account, there is no other way to look at the 2019 season for the Astros than as one of failure.

With Houston's 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, the Astros fell in seven games in the World Series. It is a second-place finish for Houston, something this team wanted no part of during the year.

"It was a good year," Alex Bregman said before the start of the playoffs. "But none of that means anything now. It's all about the postseason."

He continued: "In this game, when we show up to spring training, we're not worried about winning the Hank Aaron award or MVP. We're worried about winning a World Series. The only MVP award we worry about is the World Series MVP."

Bregman went 0 for three in the Game 7 loss and six for 32 (.188) in the series.

The 2019 season was about one thing for the Astros: winning. It was not about winning their first title, it was about winning another one. It was about getting back to the World Series and winning a second title in three years; something that the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and St Louis Cardinals have all done since the start of the millennia.

Wednesday's loss was a failure. Not a failure for one game, but a failure over 180.

Gerrit Cole's Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, in which he struck out 10 batters while allowing one run in eight innings, does not matter anymore. Jose Altuve's walk-off homer against the New York Yankees to win the pennant is a distant memory now.

Former Astros catcher Brian McCann put it best after throwing out the first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series: "When you win a championship somewhere, it's special. It lives on forever."

But it is the Nationals who claimed this year's title. The Astros won 117 games but they were not crowned the champions.

The reasons why are simple: Justin Verlander went 0-2, Houston went 15 for 57 (.263) with runners in scoring position including one for eight in Game 7, the Astros overexposed Will Harris as he gave up two huge home runs in Games 6 and 7 and they went 0-4 at Minute Maid Park – losing four games in a row at home for the first time all season.

Were the Astros great this year? Absolutely. Were they the best team in baseball? You can certainly make that argument.

But if Houston are put on the spot and asked after this series if this season was a failure, they can answer with only one word: Yes.

Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has been named the MLB World Series MVP after leading the franchise to their first championship.

Strasburg was rewarded for his efforts following the Nationals' 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 7 on Wednesday.

A three-time All-Star and 2012 Silver Slugger, Strasburg started Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two walks in 14.3 innings of work.

Strasburg's best performance of not only the series but the postseason came in Game 6 with Washington's season on the line.

The 31-year-old pitched 8.3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven and walking two. 

For the 2019 playoffs, Strasburg posted mind-boggling numbers. In six games (five starts), he went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, with 47 strikeouts and four walks in 36.3 innings pitched.

The Washington Nationals are the 2019 World Series champions.

A team that started the year 19-31 are walking away with the Commissioner's Trophy this season, while a 107-win Houston Astros have been left empty-handed.

So how did this Astros team that had the best wRC+ since the 1927 New York Yankees and a rotation featuring the likely first- and second-place finishers in the American League Cy Young race fail to win a championship?

The reason is simple: the Nationals beat them. So how did they beat them? Here are a few ways.

 

Why the Nationals won the World Series

Rendon and Soto were the best position players in the series

This is not up for debate. While Alex Bregman might win the AL MVP, George Springer has a World Series MVP already under his belt, Carlos Correa was a Rookie of the Year and Jose Altuve was the MVP in 2017, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon were without a doubt the two best players in this series.

These two men combined to go 17 for 56 (.303) with five home runs and 14 RBIs in the World Series. They were constant threats every time they stepped up to the plate and went 12 for 33 (.363) on the road. They hit four of their five home runs at Minute Maid Park.

There is little doubt who the best position players in this series were.

Strasburg etched his name into the postseason record books

Stephen Strasburg is basically Sandy Koufax in the playoffs. That is a bold statement but statistically, it is true. Koufax went 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 57 innings in his postseason career. Strasburg is now 6-2 with a 1.46 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 55.3 innings. In this postseason alone, he went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six games (five starts). He struck out 47 batters in 36.3 innings.

While Rendon and Soto were the best position players, Strasburg was undoubtedly the best pitcher.

They were road warriors

Coming into series, the Nationals were pretty good on the road this season and in the playoffs. They went 43-38 during the regular season away from home and 4-1 on their way to winning the pennant.

That success continued Wednesday as the Nationals won their fourth game in as many attempts at Minute Maid Park this series. That was the absolute difference. The Astros had home-field advantage — which should have mattered considering they were 60-21 at home in the regular season — but the Nationals were the team that played better in Houston.

The Astros were helpless at home, scoring a total of 11 runs in four games. The Astros' ineptitude at the plate had something to do with that, but Washington's pitching did too. While the Astros certainly contributed to the Nationals' road success, tons of credit have to go to Washington for playing their guts out on the road.

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez insisted he did not want to be the centre of attention following a 7-2 win over the Houston Astros that forced a World Series decider.

The Nationals, facing the end of their season on Tuesday, won Game 6 to set up a final encounter as Stephen Strasburg starred in Houston.

But the post-game conversation was dominated by an incident that ultimately had no impact on the outcome, with Martinez ejected as he fumed at an interference call against Trea Turner.

With Washington up 3-2, Turner was deemed to have interfered with Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, meaning he was called out when the Nationals would otherwise have had two runners in scoring positions.

Both Martinez and Turner had to be restrained, with the manager claiming the rules had been misapplied – although judgment calls cannot be protested.

"Part of me just said, 'Hey, we'll protest the game'," Martinez said. "I know we can't. But just check the rules, and they did that.

"Honestly, [I was protesting] nothing because I knew we couldn't. But I wanted them to go look at the replay."

Martinez became the first manager to be ejected in a World Series game since the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Cox in 1996.

Yet he was determined not to distract from Washington's crucial win, forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday.

"I don't really want to make this about me," Martinez added.

"I don't want to sit here and talk about me or the umpires. This is not about me or the umpires. This is about the Washington Nationals and those guys in the clubhouse coming to Game 6 and playing lights out, knowing this could be it."

There will be a deciding Game 7 in the MLB World Series after the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2.

With the Astros on the cusp of their second World Series title in three seasons, the Nationals won Game 6 to stay alive on Tuesday.

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg tossed 8.3 innings of one-run ball to earn the win, while Justin Verlander gave up three runs in five innings to be saddled with yet another World Series loss. He is now 0-6 in his career.

Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Adam Eaton all homered for Washington to force a series decider on Wednesday.

It will be Zack Greinke against Max Scherzer midweek.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' World Series-tying Game 6 win over the Astros

Strasburg has surpassed Verlander

Make absolutely no mistake, this game was somewhat of a passing of the torch. And while that normally consists of one team-mate passing the baton to another – in this case, it was one postseason star from one league handing it to another man in another league. Verlander is still a very good pitcher, but Strasburg is just better.

The easiest way to demonstrate it is this: Strasburg can get an out with any pitch he throws. And he can do it in the zone. Verlander still can get outs with all his pitches, but he needs batters to chase now. Strasburg does not. He can throw anything he wants at a batter and dare him to hit it. Verlander simply cannot.

To reiterate: does this mean Verlander cannot get guys out on pitches in the zone? Absolutely not. He certainly can. Strasburg can just do it better. That is why he dominated an Astros team that do not chase pitches out of the zone in this series and it is why Rendon went on a 10-pitch at-bat in which he walked against Verlander.

Strasburg is better than Verlander right now and anyone watching the two men pitch in Game 6 saw that. 

An issue that was forgotten about this year in Houston was a problem Astros hitters had with the batter's eye in centre field at Minute Maid Park. This was an issue that saw Houston score 51 runs less in 2018 at home during the regular season than they did on the road. Houston posted an OPS+ of 99 at home in 2018 versus 116 on the road.

It was an issue people forgot about this season because the Astros were so good at home, going 60-21 at Minute Maid Park and scoring 68 more runs at home than they did on the road. But with the way the ball is flying differently in the postseason, we wonder if the problem has returned. We say that only to suggest that mentally, Houston might be overthinking it at home.

Houston brought up the fact the batter's eye was a problem last season on multiple occasions, and we have to wonder whether it is causing issues again. Houston are struggling to hit — and win — at home. The Astros are now 0-3 in this series on home soil while scoring nine runs. Houston are scoring 2.66 runs per game at home this postseason and 4.5 on the road.

And while they did win two of three in the American League Championship Series at home, they scored just nine runs. Now, some of this must be the pitching Houston have faced at Minute Maid Park, but for a team that scored 6.03 runs per game at home this term, one has to wonder. It could also be that the Astros are simply trying too hard to homer into the Crawford Boxes which they have had issues with before. "I don't know if it's subconsciously we see the [short left-field] porch, the Crawford Boxes [at Minute Maid Park] and try to hit the ball out of the ballpark," manager A.J. Hinch said in 2018. "It's weird, it's very unusual."

Are the Astros struggling with hitting at their own ballpark now that they know it is tougher to hit with the baseball?

The annual "Verlander should be furious with the line-up" takeaway

Pitcher wins are virtually pointless in baseball. And yes, this is a new-age sentence, we know, but the simple fact is — unless in a National League ballpark — pitchers cannot contribute runs. So, a pitcher can only win a game if his team supports him. 

The Astros consistently have failed to support Verlander over the last three postseasons. With Houston's "mammoth" two-run output on Tuesday, the Astros have scored 16 runs in six playoff starts in 2019 (2.67 RPG). What is worse, in 15 postseason starts for the Astros in his career, Houston have scored 60 runs (4.00 RPG), but they have scored one run or less four times, two or less six times and three or less eight times. 

It does not matter how much of a Hall of Fame resume a guy has, that is asking a pitcher to do far too much. Verlander gave up three runs in Game 6. He gave up four in Game 2. That is more than enough for a team with the second highest WRC+ in the history of baseball behind only the 1927 Yankees. Verlander should be very displeased with his team-mates right now.

The Houston Astros are one win away from their second World Series title in three seasons after easing past the Washington Nationals 7-1 in Game 5.

Many thought Houston were dead in the water after Washington stole the first two games on the road to take a 2-0 series lead in the MLB championship decider.

But the veteran-laden Astros never folded and stormed back to win all three games in D.C and claim a 3-2 lead on Sunday.

The series now shifts to Houston as the Astros turn to former American League MVP Justin Verlander to try and snuff out the Nationals at home. 

Game 6 of the World Series is scheduled for Tuesday.

 

Three takeaways from the Astros' World Series Game 5 win over the Nationals

Cole dominant once again

Gerrit Cole's been lights out all postseason, and it was more of the same on Sunday.

The 29-year-old stifled the Nationals' bats all game, allowing just one earned run on three hits in seven innings of work. He also struck out nine and walked only two.

Cole's only mistake all night came with one out in the seventh inning when he gave up a solo shot to Washington's Juan Soto.

With the win, Cole improves to 4-1 this postseason with a 1.47 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 11 walks. 

Scherzer dearly missed by Washington

Mere hours before the game, Nationals manager Dave Martinez announced that ace Max Scherzer would not start Game 5 after dealing with shoulder and neck spasms the last two days.

Scherzer was not only one of Washington's best pitchers all season, but he has been one of their best in October. He started Game 1 of the series for Washington and claimed the win after allowing two earned runs on five hits to go along with seven strikeouts and three walks in five innings of work.

This postseason, the Missouri native has appeared in five games (four starts), going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 11 walks over 25 innings pitched.

There is no telling how this game would have played out had Scherzer started, but the Nationals are hoping he is healthy and available when the series shifts to Houston.

Road team's success continues

So far in the 2019 World Series, the road team are 5-0.

Washington won Games 1 and 2 in Houston, while the Astros took Games 3, 4 and 5 in D.C. 

The last time the road team won the first five games of the World Series was in the 1996 edition between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves. New York dropped the first two at home before sweeping the Braves in Atlanta and then clinching the series back home in the Bronx in Game 6.

Houston have all the momentum as they head home looking to avoid a Game 7, but stranger things have happened, and Washington are not going to go down without a fight.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer will not start Game 5 of the World Series against the Houston Astros due to spasms in his neck and back, manager Dave Martinez announced.

Martinez said Joe Ross, who went 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA in 27 appearances (nine starts) this season, will start for Washington on Sunday, with the series locked at 2-2.

Scherzer told reporters on Sunday the injury involves a nerve in his neck that is "all jammed up". He said the pain was so bad his wife helped dress him.

"For me it's been impossible to do any menial tasks today," Scherzer said. "This is literally impossible for me to do anything with."

Scherzer, who said he cannot lift his arm, had an injection and hopes to be available for Game 6 or 7 if necessary.

"If you all know Max, obviously he pitched with a broken nose [earlier this season]," Martinez said. "He's been hurt before. He's gotten through things. When he comes in and says he's hurt this bad, he's hurt."

Scherzer, 35, started Game 1 of the series for Washington and got the win after allowing two earned runs on five hits to go along with seven strikeouts and three walks in five innings of work.

This postseason, the Missouri native has appeared in five games (four starts) going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 11 walks over 25 innings pitched.

The Houston Astros crushed the Washington Nationals 8-1 in Game 4 to level the MLB World Series.

After reasserting themselves in Game 3 on Friday, the Astros turned in perhaps their most impressive game of the postseason on Saturday.

A starting pitching performance few could have predicted coupled with an offensive breakout from one of their key players saw Houston move level with Washington at 2-2 in the World Series.

Game 5 will be played at Nationals Park on Sunday, with series-opening starters Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer set to take the mound again.

 

Three takeaways from the Astros' Game 4 World Series win over the Nationals

Urquidy cleans up

Most expected Saturday to be a bullpen game for the Astros, with Jose Urquidy merely the first to get the ball, but the rookie ended up outshining every other starter in a pair of star-studded rotations. 

The 24-year-old went five scoreless innings in his first postseason start — and only the eighth of his MLB career overall. That workload matched Scherzer's from Game 1 and represented one more out than Zack Greinke recorded in Game 3. 

And it was not just the unexpected length, it was the quality. Urquidy allowed only a single to Anthony Rendon and a double to Yan Gomes while striking out four and generally kept Washington's line-up off balance across the board, retiring the last nine hitters he faced. 

A.J. Hinch undoubtedly walked into the dugout before Game 4 ready to go to his bullpen early and often, but Urquidy's heroics rendered that unnecessary and could pay off for the Houston relief corps in Game 5 and beyond.

Bregman is back

It is no secret the Astros have ridden their pitching to this point in the postseason, with their offense doing just enough to get by.

Alex Bregman's struggles at the plate had been a big reason for that. While the American League MVP candidate had at least one hit in each of the five Division Series games against the Tampa Bay Rays, he entered Game 4 in a four-for-31 drought (.129) in the ALCS and World Series. 

But Bregman broke out in a big way Saturday, with his first-inning single driving in the Astros' first run and his seventh-inning grand slam off Fernando Rodney serving as the dagger that evened the series. He added a lined single to left in the eighth to cap off a bounceback game. 

The last thing the Nationals wanted to see was Bregman in a groove, and it certainly appears he is finding his way back into one now. 

We're in for quite a finish

Given the abundance of talent on the Houston roster, most of which were around for the run to the title two years ago, not many counted the Astros out after they became the first team in 20 years to drop the first two games of the World Series at home. 

Now that they have maintained the road team's perfect record in the series, we are set up for what should be a fascinating best-of-three to determine a champion. 

It is difficult to dream up better pitching matchups than Cole v Scherzer and Justin Verlander v Stephen Strasburg in the next two games, even if none of that quartet turned in a vintage outing in his first start of the series. Should things get to a Game 7, the Astros certainly would be favoured at home with Greinke on the mound, but we have a long way to go before we get to that point. 

In the meantime, the Nationals will have to find a way to get their bats heated up again after going one for 19 with runners in scoring position in their two home games. But simply getting runners to second and third figures to be awfully difficult with Cole and Verlander in the way. 

The Houston Astros are back in the World Series after a 4-1 win over Washington Nationals on Friday.

Game three was taken by Houston on the road as they kept their hopes of a second championship in three seasons alive.

The Astros were led by José Altuve who finished 2 of 5 at the plate with two runs scored, while Asdrúbal Cabrera and Adam Eaton led the Nationals' losing efforts as they both finished 2 of 4 on the night.

Josh James was awarded the win after 1/3 inning of work while Roberto Osuna got his second save. Aníbal Sánchez was stuck with the loss.

Houston's victory broke Washington's eight-game winning streak in the post-season as the Astros spoiled the Nationals' chance of becoming the first team to win nine consecutive games in the playoffs.

 

Oh, how the tables turned

It's the Fall Classic and anything can happen, even if that means a 180 on one of the most vital stat lines.

The Astros entered the game struggling. They especially struggled with runners in scoring position as Houston was 3 for 17 with RISP through the first two games of the World Series. Maybe it was a change of scenery, maybe it was the 0-3 start they were staring at, but something clicked for the Astros on Friday. They were 4 for 10 with RISP at Nationals Park.

Instead the Nationals were the ones left on the losing end of the battle. Washington was 7 of 21 with RISP in the first two games, but the table certainly turned and Washington came up empty. They were 0 for 10 on the night.

 

The Astros needed a big moment which came in a lot of smaller ones

Houston was trying to avoid the dreaded 0-3 deficit that just one team of the last 18 has overturned in the World Series. In order to come away with a win on the road, the Astros needed a big moment.

Their bats had been mostly horrible leading up to Game 3. Altuve was batting .358 with five home runs in the postseason. He had three hits in Game 2. Michael Brantley has also been producing somewhat, hitting .280 in the playoffs, however after this duo things get grim. The rest of the line, including Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Álvarez and George Springer have all struggled to get hits.

While the Astros didn't have a breakout moment, they put together a good enough effort to outlast the streaking hot Nationals. 

 

The layoff seems to have affected Aníbal Sánchez

Sánchez had his first appearance in two weeks after starting on the mound for the Nationals on Friday. 

Washington was hopeful he would come out of the layoff quickly returning to form. In two starts this month, Sánchez gave up only one run on five hits with 14 strikeouts and three walks in 12 2/3 total innings.

The rested pitcher was up against Zack Greinke who made two starts since Sánchez's last outing this time around. It seemed like it would take a few innings for Sánchez to get warmed up but things didn't get off to a great start. He allowed runs in the second and third and things went downhill from there.

Sánchez gave up four total runs off 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. He struck out four and walked one. Sánchez was replaced in favor of Fernando Rodney after the Astros took a 4-1 lead. 

The Washington Nationals blitzed the Houston Astros 12-3 in Game 2 to take control of the MLB World Series.

Washington used a six-run seventh inning to pull away from the Astros and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Wednesday's first inning saw both teams plate two runs each as Houston's Justin Verlander and Washington's Stephen Strasburg faltered slightly very early in the game.

After that, it was the pitchers' duel many expected for the next several innings.

Then in the seventh, Verlander gave up a lead-off homer to Washington's Kurt Suzuki as the Nationals earned a 3-2 lead. 

Verlander was then pulled by manager AJ Hinch after walking Victor Robles. Washington would go on to score five more runs in the inning — all with two outs. 

Washington will return home to host Game 3 in DC on Friday.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' Game 2 World Series win over the Astros

Strasburg wins the pitchers' duel

After a shaky first inning by both starting pitchers, it was the former number one pick of the Nationals who got the last laugh.

Things looked bleak after Strasburg gave up three hits, including a two-run blast to Houston's Alex Bregman in the first frame. But that was all the Astros were going to get from the 31-year-old. 

The former standout at San Diego State scattered four hits across the next five innings, striking out six and walking just one. This has been a trend for Strasburg this postseason. So far, he is 4-0 and has a 1.93 ERA in five games (four starts) for Washington this October. 

While many believe Strasburg has yet to live up to the enormous expectations laid on him since being drafted, his play this postseason should silence all his doubters moving forward.

Washington continue their hot streak

The Nationals just cannot seem to lose as of late.

Dating back to Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Washington have won eight straight games. That number is even more remarkable when you consider the team had to rally late to win the NL wild-card game over the Milwaukee Brewers to start the postseason.

Washington have outscored their opponents 46-16 over those eight games and they do not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

If the Nationals go on to sweep the World Series, they will tie the 1998 Yankees for the fewest postseason losses in the wild-card era. Only the 1999 Yankees (11-1) and 2005 Chicago White Sox (11-1) had fewer losses.

Verlander's World Series struggles continue

On a night where Verlander became MLB's all-time postseason leader in strikeouts, his struggles in the Fall Classic reared their ugly heads again.

Verlander is a lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown whenever that day comes. But his greatness has yet to shine through in the World Series.

Entering Wednesday's game, Verlander had an 0-4 record and a 5.67 ERA in five career World Series starts. His loss in Game 2 gives him an 0-5 record in the Fall Classic and a 5.45 ERA.

The 36-year-old already has a championship after winning the 2017 World Series with Houston, but his mortal-like performance on the game's biggest stage is a blemish on an otherworldly career.

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