EditorsNote: write-thru with quotes and details
HOUSTON — Given the sequence of events that unfolded in the top of the seventh inning in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, there was reason to suspect that the Washington Nationals had a bit more magic on tap when the seventh inning commenced in Game 7 on Wednesday.
That Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick delivered for Washington was to be expected.
Rendon and Kendrick both slugged home runs in the Nationals’ turnaround three-run seventh, with Kendrick drilling an opposite-field, two-run homer that helped Washington complete an upset of the Houston Astros in a 6-2 victory that secured the franchise’s first championship.
It’s the city of Washington’s second World Series title, following the Senators’ crown in 1924. The Montreal Expos debuted in 1969, later moving to Washington to become the Nationals in 2005.
The Nationals also became the first team to earn four road wins in a World Series.
Kendrick, whose grand slam in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series felled the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers, again struck the decisive blow for Washington. Kendrick slapped an 0-1 cutter from Astros right-hander Will Harris (0-1) off the right field foul pole for a two-run shot that erased a 2-1 deficit.
“I just had a feeling it was going to get real quiet that inning,” said Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, named World Series Most Valuable Player for winning Games 2 and 6. “And it did.”
The Nationals totaled 11 runs in the seventh inning in their final three wins of the series. Washington became the sixth consecutive team to clinch the World Series on the road.
In the seventh Wednesday, Rendon continued his string of clutch performances in the latter stages of elimination games, popping a solo homer to left that sliced the Nationals’ deficit to 2-1. Including his 374-shot into the Crawford Boxes in left, Rendon was 6-for-6 with a walk, three doubles and three home runs in the seventh inning or later of elimination games.
“To me, that was the key,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He really opened it up right there.”
Houston starter Zack Greinke then issued a one-out walk to Juan Soto, prompting
Astros manager A.J. Hinch to make a pitching change. Greinke had pitched masterfully, facing the minimum through four innings before completing five scoreless frames with just 59 pitches on his ledger.
Replacing Greinke was Harris, who had his string of 10 consecutive scoreless postseason appearances snapped when Rendon homered in the seventh inning of Game 6. Kendrick followed with his series-alerting shot.
“It’s a decision I’ll have to live with,” Hinch said of pulling Greinke, who had thrown 80 pitches. “I’ll think about it. And I don’t know what would have happened had I left him in. But that was kind of where I targeted based on where the game was going and what we had available to us.”
Greinke wound up charged with two runs on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Soto stroked an RBI single in the eighth to extend the lead to 4-2, and Washington added two insurance runs in the ninth, ensuring victories for the road team in all seven games of the series, a first in any major U.S. sport.
Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin (1-1) worked a scoreless three-inning relief stint. He followed Max Scherzer, who allowed two runs on seven hits and four walks while grinding his way through five gritty innings. Scherzer was scratched from his Game 5 start due to neck spasms.
For the Astros, the inability to knock Scherzer from the game was reminiscent of their failures at home throughout the series.
Yuli Gurriel smacked a leadoff homer in the second inning, and Carlos Correa added a two-out, two-strike single that scored Gurriel in the fifth, but that was the Astros’ lone hit with a runner in scoring position.
Houston went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 baserunners. Over the course of four games at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros won a club-record 60 games this season, they finished 4-for-29 (.138) with runners in scoring position.
“We hit the ball hard a lot of times, we just hit it at people,” Houston outfielder George Springer said. “That’s the game.”
—Field Level Media