WASHINGTON – Jose Urquidy outpitched all those big-name aces who preceded him, the unheralded Houston rookie quieting Washington’s bats and the Nationals Park crowd, too.
Alex Bregman busted out of his slump with a go-ahead single in the first inning and a grand slam in the seventh, and the resurgent Astros routed the Nationals 8-1 Saturday night for a 2-all tie in a best-of-seven World Series that has been one big road show.
“From the very beginning, I thought he was calm, I thought he was in control of his stuff,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Urquidy. “His fastball had a little extra life to it. It’s had good life this postseason. And then he just came up with big pitch after big pitch.”
Game 1 winner Max Scherzer takes the mound Sunday night hoping to get Washington a home Series victory for the first time since the Senators won at Griffith Stadium in 1933. In a rematch of the opener, Gerrit Cole goes for Houston after losing for the first time since May.
Visiting teams have won the first four World Series games for the first time since 1996, when the New York Yankees broke the pattern in Game 6 against Atlanta to take the title.
Game 6 will be Tuesday night in Houston, when the Astros lose their road-field advantage.
“This is what it’s all about,” Bregman said. “This is a beautiful thing. It’s two teams battling it out. They’ve got great pitching, great offenses. It’s been fun so far, and just want to keep it rolling.”
Yuli Gurriel also drove in a run in the first as Houston strung together four singles in a seven-pitch span for a 2-0 lead against Patrick Corbin. Robinson Chirinos homered for the second straight day, a two-run drive that boosted the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning.
Fans started leaving in the seventh, when the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate and battered the bullpen. Bregman, who began the night in a 1-for-13 Series slide, had the big blow, driving a low, inside fastball from former Mariner Fernando Rodney into the left-field stands.
Bregman held his bat high as he slowly walked out of the batter’s box, then took nearly 30 seconds to circle the bases.
“Was just trying to hit the ball in the air and drive in a run, and ended up driving in four,” he said.
Orange-clad Houston fans in the right-field upper deck chanted “Let’s go Astros!” as Nationals fans were virtually silenced. Wild-card Washington lost consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 13-14 against the Atlanta Braves.
Starting pitchers were the talk of the Series coming in, with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer and Corbin combining for 12 All-Star selections and three Cy Young Awards. The baseball cards of Houston’s Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke shine with 17 All-Star picks, two Cy Youngs and one MVP.
But there were just five 1-2-3 innings by starters in the first three games, and the most consecutive outs were turned in by Nationals veteran Anibal Sanchez, who retired seven straight in Game 3.
Urquidy, a 24-year-old right-hander who rebounded from Tommy John surgery in 2016, exceeded them all.
Urquidy wasn’t even announced as Houston’s starter until after Game 3, with Hinch hoping to piece together innings any way he could.