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World Series Game 7 Preview: It’s go time

washington nationalsIt’s Oct. 30, and the Washington Nationals, left for dead innumerable times in 2019, are somehow still playing baseball.

You know all about the 19-31 start, but let’s fast forward to the NL Wild Card Game. The feel-good story should have ended there, with the Nats down 3-1 in the eighth, a runner on first, two outs, Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hitting against Josh Hader, who would go on to be honored at Nationals Park over the weekend as the NL Reliever of the Year.

Zimmerman, maybe in his last at bat as a Nat, who knows, kept the line moving with a broken-bat single, and after Anthony Rendon worked a walk, Juan Soto ripped what looked to be a game-tying single to right that turned into more when Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham misplayed the ball, allowing the third run to score in what turned into a 4-3 win.

Fast forward again to Game 5 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Down 3-1 in the eighth, Washington got back-to-back solo homers from Rendon and Soto off Clayton Kershaw to tie it, then won in extras on a Howie Kendrick grand slam.

An NCLS sweep of St. Louis and wins in Games 1 and 2 in Houston had fans thinking the improbable, but then the Astros seized the upper hand, outscoring Washington 19-3 in easy wins in Games 3, 4 and 5 to return to Minute Maid Park on the verge of a second World Series title in three years.

Stephen Strasburg almost didn’t make it out of the first inning in Game 6, then righted the ship, pitching into the ninth, with Rendon homering and driving in five, and here we are, Game 7.

Max Scherzer, who as recently as Sunday couldn’t dress himself due to stiffness in his neck that scratched him from his scheduled Game 5 start, will get the ball for Washington, facing Houston’s #3 starter, Zach Greinke.

Assuming Scherzer is anything resembling his normal self, that should translate to Advantage: Washington, but you can also assume that, hey, it’s Game 7, everybody is in the ‘pen on both sides, including your Game 6 starters, Strasburg and Justin Verlander.

Don’t be surprised to see Houston manager A.J. Hinch use ace Gerrit Cole, who won Game 5.

Washington manager Davey Martinez probably has the edge in terms of starter availability, with Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez and Game 4 starter Patrick Corbin.

Sanchez and Corbin are good options for Martinez should Scherzer break down early, or, again, assuming Scherzer is Mad Max, and pitches deep into the game, the two could be used to bridge between Scherzer and the back end of the bullpen, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson.

Hinch has closer Roberto Osuna on an insane amount of rest. Somehow, Osuna has only gotten into one game in the Series, a one-inning save in the Astros’ 4-1 win in Game 3 in DC.

Hinch did use setup man Will Harris for two-thirds of an inning last night in Game 6, but Harris only threw five pitches to the three batters he faced, including giving up a two-run homer to Rendon that turned a 3-2 game into a 5-2 game.

After that, Hinch went to his B bullpen, preserving Osuna and setup man Joe Smith for tonight.

Assuming Scherzer can give the Nats at least five innings, expect Martinez to go to Corbin and Sanchez to try to get the game to the Doolittle/Hudson tandem in the eighth with the Series in the balance.

Hinch is probably hoping to get Greinke into the fifth, since the 18-game winner hasn’t been able to get through five in his last two postseason starts.

Game 4 winner Jose Urquidy would be a nice bridge to give you two or three innings from there to the back end of the bullpen.

Also, expect a bad call to go against the Nationals, because that’s been the story of this Series.

Also also, expect the Nats to figure out a way around everything, because that’s been the story of their 2019 season.

Story by Chris Graham


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