The tension mounted in Minute Maid Park with each pitch to the pinch-hitting rookie with two aboard in the sixth inning of a tied Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Kyle Tucker fought off Stephen Strasburg’s most onerous offerings and slowly worked the count full, with the Astros faithful waving their orange towels in anticipation of a magic moment. Then the kid watched a high curveball dive into the upper reaches of the strike zone for the inning-ending strike three. Instants later, a leadoff rocket off the bat of Kurt Suzuki just one pitch into the seventh sparked the ruthless six-run frame that included a rare intentional walk and two uncharacteristic misplays by Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, silencing a sold-out crowd and sending the Washington Nationals toward a 12-3 win that put them up 2-0 in the best-of-seven World Series.
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That sequence — that stunningly swift twist in which an optimistic adversary is unexpectedly left wondering what the heck just ran it over — reflects the story of the Nationals’ October ride.
“I think we’ve kind of defied the odds at this point,” third baseman Anthony Rendon said. “And we don’t pay too much attention to them.”
The Nationals trampled deficits and hearts in the late innings of the winner-take-all National League Wild Card Game versus the Brewers and Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. They made a mockery of the once-confident Cardinals in a clean sweep of the NL Championship Series to reach their first Fall Classic. And now they’ve put a 114-win Astros team that had started the two American League Cy Young Award favorites at home into some truly dangerous mathematical terrain as the Series shifts to D.C. for the first time in 86 years.
Having now won a record-tying eight straight games within a single postseason, the Nats — the same franchise once roundly criticized for its inability to advance in October — are underdogs undeterred by the elite standing of the 2017 champs.