- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2019

Back in Game 2 of the World Series, the Washington Nationals’ offense poured like water from a faucet as they plated 12 runs. Since then, they’ve managed barely a drip.

The 2-0 series lead they held that night seems so long ago.

The Houston Astros won Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night, 7-1, and now lead Washington three games to two. They stand one win away from their second World Series title in three years — and they get to play the rest of the series back in Houston.

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A pair of early Astros home runs brought in two runs apiece and the Nationals’ bats never caught up. Washington mustered only four hits.

After Astros ace Gerrit Cole saw the Nationals snap his streak of 19 straight victorious decisions back in Game 1, he was dominant Sunday, limiting the Nationals to three hits over seven innings. In a stretch from the end of the second inning until the seventh, Cole held 15 straight batters hitless.

The Nationals’ three-game losing streak is made all the more unexpected by how they stormed into the playoffs and won 18 of 20 games from September until Friday, when the World Series arrived in Washington for the first time in 86 years.

It’s even made manager Dave Martinez break from his usual shtick of “going 1-0 today” and look beyond the next game in front of them.

“I told (the team), I said, ‘I know we’re going to go 1-0, but we’re going to play Game 7, I believe that. So keep pushing,’” Martinez said.

Juan Soto provided Washington’s only score when he hit his second home run of the series in the seventh inning, a solo shot that barely snuck over the centerfield fence. At that point, the Nationals only trailed 4-1, and Cole was near the bottom of his tank.

But at the end of that inning, with a full count, two outs and a runner on base, Victor Robles was called out on strikes for a pitch that registered high and outside on the telecast’s pitch tracker. Nationals fans in the sold-out crowd of 43,910 recognized the judgment error, too, and booed home plate umpire Lance Barksdale the rest of the night.

Calls alone can’t explain away how cold Washington’s bats are. Across the three World Series games played in the District, the Nationals combined to score three runs and went just 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position.

It doesn’t help that they face Justin Verlander next — even though it was Verlander who allowed the first four runs out of Washington’s 12-run outburst last Wednesday.

“As you guys well know we are facing a really good staff,” Eaton said. “We have to continue to grind and, like I said, try to make as productive at-bats as possible and stay within ourselves.”

With Max Scherzer scratched from his scheduled start due to neck spasms that left his pitching arm unusable, Joe Ross was given the ball. He gave up just five hits over five innings, but Yordan Álvarez struck a sinker in the second inning to pick up the game’s first two runs, and Carlos Correa homered in the fourth on a pitch that Ross left in the middle of the zone.

Yuli Gurriel singled off Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning to bring home George Springer. Springer added a two-run home run off Daniel Hudson in the top of the ninth for insurance.

The teams will meet again in Houston Tuesday night for Game 6. For the Nationals, it will be a familiar spot — their season on the line.

Being the oldest team in baseball comes with the veteran experience and understanding of what the team needs to do without having to verbalize it in the clubhouse, according to Adam Eaton. Trea Turner agreed.

“I don’t think we’d be in this situation if someone had to give a rah-rah in the World Series,” Turner said. “I don’t think we’d be in this situation, I think we’d be sitting at home right now. We know what’s at stake. We know it’s win or go home. But at the same time, it’s another baseball game, same as the ones we’ve played before in previous series, and all season. We just gotta come out with a win.”

“We fought all year long to get here,” Martinez said. “We played playoff games all year long to get here. But we have a lot in fight in us left. I know we do.”

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