The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

D12 EZ SU K T H E  W A S H I N G T O N  P O S T.T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R  2 4,  2 0 1 9

world series

date on a plastic case and putting
it in place for good.
When the Nationals left for
Houston on Monday, there were
101 game balls stretching from
March 31 to Oct. 15. They formed
a mural of team success. Players
often stand in the hallway to
look, remembering the most ran-
dom days of an eight-month
sprint, counting how many
they’ve accounted for. Now Mar-
tinez will leave here with a fresh
pair to shelve: There is Soto’s ball
after he collected three hits and
three RBI in Game 1. There will
be another to get signed by some-
one, or a few someones, from
And the Nationals need just
two more.

were all the tiny contributions
that, when glued together, formed
a winning whole. The challenge is
that Martinez will have to decide.
Before this season, his second
on the job, an idea popped into
Martinez’s head. The manager
wanted to save a game ball from
every one of Washington’s wins.
He wanted to put them on a wall
outside his office at Nationals
Park, set in chronological order,
stacked on shelves that grew as
the season moved along. Each is
signed by the player who led the
Nationals to victory. When Marti-
nez can’t pick one, when the effort
feels bigger, he has two players
scratch their signatures onto the
worn leather. Some even have
three names. Then Martinez fin-
ishes the process by writing the

bases. Houston paid for it once
Bregman bobbled a Howie Kend-
rick grounder, allowing a run and
the rally to continue, before As-
drúbal Cabrera drove in two with
a single. Then Bregman erred
again by throwing a ball high and
wide of first to allow two more
Nationals to score. Big pockets of
the crowd headed for the exits.
And the ballpark went silent once
When Manager Dave Martinez
reflects on this game, and he’ll
have one night and a long flight to
do so, it will be hard to pick a hero.
There was Rendon lifting that
two-run double in the first. There
was Strasburg keeping the Astros
in check for five innings. There
was Suzuki’s home run, there was
Cabrera pitching it, and there

hitters to review each series. It’s a
joint job for the analytics and
video staff. But one member of the
organization once joked that Su-
zuki’s packet is always thinner
than the rest. He just looks for the
first fastball he sees and tries to
pull it as hard as he can. And that’s
what he did against Verlander in
the seventh, smashing high heat,
driving it off the Lexus sign be-
hind the left-field seats and down
into the stands.
Verlander was hooked for re-
liever Ryan Pressly after he
walked Victor Robles. There were
still no outs in the inning. The
floodgates opened when Turner
walked and, with two outs, the
Astros issued their first intention-
al pass of the entire season. It put
Juan Soto on first to load the

gutting a spurt of Verlander’s
dominance with more of his own.
Strasburg capped the outing by
getting Kyle Tucker to wave at a
full-count curveball. He jogged off
the field once he did, leaving noth-
ing behind, and locked hands
with first base coach Tim Bogar in
a swinging high-five.
Strasburg typically ducks into
the outings once he exits. He finds
a quiet space. He waits for the
pitching coach to tell him he’s
done. But now Strasburg knew
the job was finished. So he walked
through a line of teammates, re-
peated two words — “Come on!
Come on!” — then left them to
celebrate when Suzuki led off the
next half with a boom.
The Nationals put together in-
tricate scouting reports for their

and 18 of its last 20 going back to
Sept. 23. But he couldn’t, at least
at the start and finish, beginning
when Anthony Rendon smacked a
two-run double in the first. The
fans went quiet, and their orange
flags didn’t wave, yet it didn’t take
long for the building to fill with
noise. Washington’s lead lasted
until Alex Bregman hit a tower-
ing, two-run shot off Strasburg in
the bottom of the inning.
He rocked a middle-in change-
up, knotting the score, but Stras-
burg was quick to find a rhythm.
Verlander was, too. Strasburg
eventually fought through six in-
nings on 114 pitches. He stranded
two runners before he exited, giv-
ing the Nationals a chance, and


Breaking away: Nationals are returning home with 2-0 lead


Juan Soto, left, who had been the beneficiary of Houston’s first intentional walk of the season earlier in the inning, scores one of Washington’s six runs in the seventh as the Nationals broke open a tie game.

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