HOUSTON — The electric pitching duel between Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole never developed in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.
Due to the dominating stuff the right-handers possess, many expected them to overpower the lineups and that didn’t come close to happening.
Since they bagged a 5-4 victory in front of 43,339 at Minute Maid Park the Nationals didn’t mind a bit that Scherzer vanished after five innings and 112 pitches with a three-run lead.
Considering the last time Cole lost was May 22, the Astros must have been confused watching him give up five runs and two homers in seven innings.
Game 2 is Wednesday night, when the Astros will lean on Justin Verlander to help them get even against the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.
Scherzer’s first clean inning was the fifth, when he went through Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. The 16-pitch inning raised Scherzer’s count to 112, eight shy of his season high.
Juan Soto, who turns 21 on Friday, homered off Cole in the fourth and provided a two-run double in the three-run fifth for the winners. Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-out, bases-empty homer off Cole in the second.
Martin Maldonado started the eighth with a single off Daniel Hudson and moved to second on Aledmys Diaz’s fly to center. George Springer’s bid for a second homer toward right-center resulted in an RBI double that cut the Nationals’ lead to 5-4 and brought Jose Altuve to the plate with one out.
Hudson got the Yankee killer on a routine fly to right and was replaced by the left-handed Sean Doolittle to face the left-handed hitting Michael Brantley, whose liner to left was gloved by Soto to preserve the Nationals’ one-run lead.
Doolittle recorded the final three outs for the save and he had to earn it. With “MVP, MVP, MVP’’ chants from the crowd, Alex Bregman struck out, Yuli Gurriel flied to center and Carlos Correa sent the sold-out crowd home bummed with a fly ball to center.
When Patrick Corbin surfaced from the bullpen to start the home sixth, Scherzer was done. In five innings he had allowed two runs, five hits, walked three and whiffed seven. While Nationals manager Dave Martinez didn’t announce a starter for Game 3 on Friday in Washington, Corbin was certainly in the mix, along with Anibal Sanchez.
After a one-inning stint in which he threw 21 pitches, Corbin could start Game 3. He was replaced by Tanner Rainey at the start of the home seventh and Springer hit the right-hander’s fourth pitch for a home run to left-center that cut the Nationals’ lead to 5-3. It was the fifth straight World Series game that Springer homered in. That broke a tie with Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig and set a World Series record.
Following Altuve chasing a breaking ball away for the first out, Rainey walked Brantley and Bregman and was replaced by Hudson. He retired Gurriel on a pop to short center and allowed an infield single to Correa that loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez who whiffed.
Gurriel’s two-out, two-run double in the first staked the Astros to a 2-0 lead off Scherzer, who needed 26 pitches to get three outs.
The last two spots in the Nationals’ batting order helped the visitors take a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Kurt Suzuki, the No. 8 hitter, led off with a walk and moved to second on Victor Robles’ single to right. Trea Turner’s fly to right advanced Suzuki to third and he scored on Adam Eaton’s single to right. Anthony Rendon forced Eaton at second. Soto then doubled off the left-field scoreboard to plate Rendon and Robles and give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.