I have a lot of thoughts about last night. I’m just going to give them, start to finish. Consider this like Cliff Notes.
- Zack Grienke was absolutely masterful. His second pitch of the night was an absolute bullet hit by Trea Turner that Alex Bregman snared out of the air at 3rd base. Other than that, he was untouchable. He had allowed 1 base runner in his last 16 batters faced before Rendon’s homer in the 7th threw AJ Hinch into a panic.
- On the other end, Max Scherzer was solid. This is a guy who wasn’t able dress himself just days before pitching because he was in so much pain. Gutsy performance. Houston did a really good job early of being selective and making him work. They also hit some good pitches.
- Yuli Gurriel’s homer in the 2nd in particular, was off a good pitch. It was a slider down, Gurriel was out on his front foot but got it in the air and got some help from the short porch.
- In that same inning, there was a chance for this game to get away from Scherzer early. He gave up the homer to Gurriel, then left a fastball right down the middle to Yordan Alvarez for a laser of a line drive single. Carlos Correa then also hit a good pitch for a single. He waited back on a fastball on the outer half of the plate and beat the shift.
- Robinson Chirinos then tried to bunt and I don’t know if that call came from Hinch or if he was doing it on his own, but it was a bad call. Why is your 8 hitter bunting for your 9 hitter, who is hitting .137 in the playoffs? Chirinos popped up the bunt. Man, was that a gift. Wasted at bat with men on 1st and 2nd and no outs.
- .137 hitting Josh Reddick then grounded out for the 2nd out but Scherzer still almost botched the inning. He fell behind in the count 3-0 on George Springer. Springer swung on 3-0 and smashed a sinking line drive to left that Juan Soto had to catch off his shoe tops. A couple inches there and its 3-0 Houston, instead its 1-0 after 2 innings.
- Houston was putting another good inning together in the 3rd. Jose Altuve hit a good slider for a single. Bregman put together a good at bat that led to a walk. Scherzer was really letting it fly against Alvarez a couple batters later. He hit 96 on the radar gun multiple times in the at bat. Alvarez still got on top of a 96 mph fastball above the zone and hit it to the track in center. If they are using the juiced baseballs its probably 4-0 Houston at that point. Instead it remained 1-0.
- Even with the low scoring, 1-0 game going into the 4th and with how good Greinke had been, neither pitcher recorded a strikeout until the 4th inning. Can you imagine that in today’s game? There were 2 former Cy Young winners pitching, by the way. I don’t know this, but I think the hitters were trying harder to put the ball in play given the weight of the game.
- To that point, this is such a game of inches. Soto catches a ball off his shoe tops to end the 2nd inning and end a threat. Correa’s RBI single in the 5th bounced off Rendon’s glove at third base while he was in a full dive. He really almost had it, instead its a run scored and Alvarez went from 1st to 3rd.
- Then there was the requisite asinine umpire review. Alvarez slid into 3rd on the play and Washington challenged that he came off the bag for a millisecond while being tagged. Luckily common sense prevailed and he was called safe. It just turned into a waste of a minute and 52 seconds of our lives.
- In case my bullet points aren’t an indication, I was taking notes. After the 6th inning I specifically wrote in my notes “By no means should Greinke be removed. Pitching like a man on fire.” Foreshadowing.
- Then to start the 7th he just leaves a fastball in the middle of the plate to Anthony Rendon. John Smoltz called it a changeup in the broadcast booth, but it was 89 mph, which is on the low end for a fastball for Greinke at this point in his career. I think he just mislocated. One mistake, the lead is cut in half to 2-1, and AJ Hinch begins pooping himself in the dugout.
- Greinke then walked Soto. The 2-1 pitch was called a ball, but it looked like a strike to me. Its a shame, because the walk led to Hinch pulling Greinke. Too early!
- Obviously, I would have stuck with Greinke. He made one mistake and then walked a guy with an iffy call involved. I think you have to trust you’re highly regarded starter there. Its become so en vogue to pull starters in playoff games that I think that Hinch managed the game in a way to try to avoid criticism. It didn’t work out for him.
- But, a lot of people have made something of Hinch going to Will Harris instead of Gerrit Cole. I really didn’t mind that. Harris had not given up a run in the playoffs before entering the game last night. Yes, he’d pitched a lot, but he had pitched a lot because he had been incredibly effective.
- It was also not the beginning of an inning, not a prime time to go to Gerrit Cole, who has one relief appearance in his entire career going back to college.
- Harris immediately gives up the 2-run dinger, and the lead to Howie Kendrick. Hinch panics even more and goes to Roberto Osuna, his closer in the 7th. It works for the time being, but its 3-2 Washington now at stretch time.
- Its still 3-2 in the top of the 8th. Osuna is still in. Adam Eaton walks with 1 out. Closers typically aren’t used to having to control the running game. Eaton steals second, mostly due to a lack of attention from Osuna.
- So now, 2 outs, a man on second, Soto is up with first base open. He’s a lefty. Right-handed Kendrick is on deck with right-handed Osuna pitching. The Astros didn’t intentionally walk any batter all season long. They should’ve broken that rule for Soto. Instead, he singles in Eaton, now its 4-2 Washington going to the middle of the 8th.
- I wonder if Dave Martinez would have stuck with Patrick Corbin in the 8th if Washington hadn’t gotten that insurance run. Corbin was fantastic himself though. 3 innings, 2 hits, no walks.
- Specifically, Corbin’s bottom of the 8th was huge. One of the biggest pitches of the night was him striking out Jake Marisnick on a 3-2 count to end the inning. It was still a 4-2 game at the time.
- That out allowed Washington to let Daniel Hudson go for a traditional 3-out save in the 9th. No need for him to get an out to end the 8th, sit back down and then come back in the game. It also kept the Astros from getting Springer to the plate with a chance to tie with one swing.
- Hudson didn’t shy away from the moment in the 9th. He blew away Altuve with a fastball and then got Brantley with nasty offspeed. It was 6-2 at the point, but those were still the biggest pitches of his life.
- Not a very classy move by Gerrit Cole to only speak to the media as an agent of himself and not as an Astro. I get being upset at the outcome and not getting a chance to be a part of the game, but that’s not exactly the type of leadership and attitude I’d be thrilled with if I’m thinking of giving him a boatload of money this offseason. Ability talks though. He’s definitely going to get paid.
- Congrats to the Nationals, man. They earned this. They won 5 games will facing elimination this postseason.
- I’m happy for them and for DC. They hadn’t won a World Series in that town since 1924. The Great Depression and the second World War hadn’t happened yet. Absolutely incredible! Good for them.
- Ken Rosenthal is a tiny man. He looked so little in that sea of Nationals.
- Shoutout to Walgreens
- Shout out to Bryce Harper
- And lastly, and most importantly… Just 145 days until Opening Day!