- - Wednesday, October 30, 2019

HOUSTONStephen Strasburg has come a long way from the first time he took the ball for the Washington Nationals in a postseason start.

“I think if I go out there and just compete, I’m going to be OK,” he said before Game 1 of the 2014 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giant. “I can sleep well at night.”

Here’s what he said before his start Tuesday night in Game 6 of the World Series against the Houston Astros, with his Nationals team down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series: “You know it’s going to be a storm out there. You’re going to weather it.”

No talk of being “OK,” no mention of “sleep.”

Damn right, pitching in the World Series is a storm. And Strasburg can stand up to rain, snow, sleet, hail and the Houston Astros lineup.

The Nationals postseason pitching legend weathered the storm Tuesday night with 8 1/3 innings of clutch pitching in a 7-2 win to give his team a Game 7 showdown Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Washington has the opportunity to win the franchise’s first World Series and the first one in Washington since the 1924 Senators.

There’s been a lot of stormy weather in D.C. since then.

Max Scherzer, making a miraculous recovery from his neck and back spasms that prevented him from lifting his arm Sunday night, forcing him out of a Game 5 start, threw in left field before Tuesday night’s Game 6 and left the field declaring himself ready for Game 7.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez confirmed that as of Tuesday night.

The Game 6 victory gave Strasburg, who struck out seven, a 5-0 record for this postseason. No one else in Major League Baseball playoff history has won five games without a defeat in a single postseason.

He has learned to weather those storms — and he had to do so early Tuesday night.

After Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Anthony Rendon off Houston starter Justin Verlander, the Astros came back with a leadoff double by George Springer and a two-run home run by Alex Bregman to take a 2-1 lead.

It had rained all day in Houston, and in the first inning, it looked as if it was going to pour inside Minute Maid Park.

But Strasburg kept his composure and kept the Astros hitters off the board for the next seven innings.

His teammates picked him up when Adam Eaton and Juan Soto both blasted solo home runs in the fifth, and Rendon added a two-run shot in the seventh and a two-run double in the ninth for a 7-2 lead.

It might have been one more run in the seventh inning, but the umpiring crew appeared to blow a call on Trea Turner at first base, claiming he interfered with Houston first baseman Yuri Gurriel when his glove came off as Turner crossed the base safely.

The bad call set off Martinez, who was tossed after his coaches had to hold him back from going after the umpires.

Strasburg remained calm.

He came out for the bottom of the seventh and retired the Houston side in order over the next two innings — including Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Bregman.

Before this win-or-go-home start, Strasburg was asked what he expected.

“I know what I expect of myself,” he answered. “I’m going to hold true to that. That’s all I can really control. My approach is everything and how I respond to whatever happens once the ball leaves my hand is just as important.”

He was speaking a time in his career when he would be upset when things didn’t go quite right once the ball left his hand. He would be consumed by the storm.

No longer.

When the ball left his hand in the first inning and landed in the left field seats after Bregman’s blast, Strasburg stood up to the storm. It’s what we’ve come to expect from him. He is the lighthouse.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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