Yan Gomes smashed a line drive towards the Houston bullpen, then slapped his hands together in frustration when Astros left fielder Michael Brantley caught the ball on a run in the last of the seventh.
It was one of those nights for the Nationals, who rarely made solid contact in an 8-1 loss to Houston in Game 4 of the World Series. The Astros have won the last two games and tied the series, which continues Sunday at Nationals Park.
“That is a good team over there,” Washington right fielder Adam Eaton said. “We just didn’t think they would fold up and pack it in.”
The Nationals have stranded 21 runners in the past two games and are 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position for the series — and that one was an infield hit by Anthony Rendon on Saturday which didn’t even drive in a run.
“We had some strikeouts in those situations,” said starting second baseman Howie Kendrick. “That is baseball. We just have to fight through it.”
The Nationals will now hope starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can lead them to a title as the offense struggles.
“No pressure,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “We feel good about the two pitchers going. Most importantly, we believe in ourselves. We were not supposed to be here.”
In a 4-1 Game 3 loss Friday, the Nationals left 12 runners on base and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. In that game, Washington left a runner in scoring position the first six innings of the contest.
There was no such misery Saturday, as Houston starter José Urquidy allowed no runs and just two hits in five innings. He became the third Mexican native to win a World Series game and the first since 1984.
“I just wanted to make sure I was fair to him,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said of his starter. “I didn’t want him to fail.”
Once he was gone the Nationals had their best chance in the sixth against the Houston bullpen.
Juan Soto drove in the first run with a groundout with the bases loaded, but Kendrick struck out with two runners on base to end the threat as Houston led 4-1.
Then the Astros exploded for fours in the top of the seventh, as Alex Bregman hit a grand slam inside the left-field foul pole as Houston assumed an 8-1 cushion against reliever Fernando Rodney.
“A big swing to ultimately win the game, essentially a knockout punch,” Hinch said. “He is one of the best players in baseball. He has been our rock in the middle of the lineup.”
Soto, after three hits in Game 1, has suddenly gone cold at the plate. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Friday then was hitless in three at-bats Saturday.
Washington had just four hits: singles by Anthony Rendon in the first and sixth, a double by catcher Gomes in the third and a single by Victor Robles in the seventh. Turner smashed a shot down the first-base line, but Yuli Gurriel dove to stop the ball and then retired Turner with two runners on to end the seventh.
Kurt Suzuki, the other Washington catcher, missed Saturday’s game with a hip injury and his status is up in the air. He may be better defensively than Gomes, but Suzuki is hitting .100 in the playoffs. Scherzer is slated to start for Washington on Sunday against Gerrit Cole of the Astros.
“It is going to be a chess match,” Eaton said. “Now it is best of three. We have good pitchers and they have a good team.”