HOUSTON -- The home-field edge has been oddly nonexistent in this World Series, but try telling that to a Houston team returning to Minute Maid Park just a win away from a championship. The Astros have got that feeling and the Nationals are reeling after everything was upended at Nationals Park over the weekend.
Game 6 tonight -- Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg -- will be a test of just how deep this road-tested title bout can go. If the Nats can somehow humble Houston and extend this thing to a glorious Game 7 on Wednesday night, it will mark the first time the road team has won the first six games of a Series since ... ever.
“We're just trying to win each game every day,” Astros reliever Will Harris said. “If it didn't work out that day, focus on the next day. I don't think there's really a rhyme or reason why [the road team dominance] has happened.”
If the Nationals can upend the Astros at home again, as they did in Games 1 and 2, they’ve got a chance of giving the ball to Max Scherzer -- a late scratch from Sunday night's Game 5 because of neck pain -- in Game 7. Scherzer had a cortisone treatment to alleviate the neck issue and potentially make him ready for the Game 7 scenario, in which he would oppose Zack Greinke.
It's up to Strasburg to snap a skid and save a season for the Nats team that famously made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. And it’s up to Verlander, who has three losses and a no-decision in his past four starts this postseason, to try to put the finishing touches on the Astros’ second World Series title in three seasons. As matchups go, that’s a pitching pair befitting the seismic circumstances.
“We've got to treat [Game 6] as Game 7 right now,” Nationals skipper Dave Martinez said. “There won't be a Game 7 if we can't get a Game 6. So our focus is winning tomorrow and go 1-0 and go from there.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 6 will be tonight at 8 ET/7 CT on FOX.
All World Series games will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to FOX through a participating pay TV provider.
What do the starting lineups look like?
Nationals: This lineup has been held to one run in three consecutive games for the first time all season. The last time the Nats scored no more than one run in three straight home games was Aug. 6-9, 2016. With the designated hitter back in Houston, Asdrúbal Cabrera returns at second base and Howie Kendrick shifts to the DH spot. Kurt Suzuki remains out of the starting lineup with a right hip injury.
Here is Washington's lineup:
1) Trea Turner, SS
2) Adam Eaton, RF
3) Anthony Rendon, 3B
4) Juan Soto, LF
5) Howie Kendrick, DH
6) Asdrúbal Cabrera, 2B
7) Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
8) Victor Robles, CF
9) Yan Gomes, C
Astros: Back at Minute Maid Park, Yordan Alvarez returns to the lineup at designated hitter on the heels of his 3-for-3 performance in Game 5, which included a two-run homer. Josh Reddick also is back for the first time since Game 3, as well as Robinson Chirinos, who homered in Games 3 and 4 in Washington.
Here is Houston's lineup:
1) George Springer, CF
2) José Altuve, 2B
3) Michael Brantley, LF
4) Alex Bregman, 3B
5) Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6) Yordan Alvarez, DH
7) Carlos Correa, SS
8) Robinson Chirinos, C
9) Josh Reddick, RF
Who are the starting pitchers?
Nationals: With their season on the line, the Nationals turn to Strasburg (4-0, 1.93 ERA in the postseason). The right-hander, with a 1.34 career postseason ERA, has been one of the most dominant playoff pitchers in MLB history. His first start of the Series came during Game 2 in Houston, where he gutted out six innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts.
Astros: Verlander (1-3, 4.15 ERA in the postseason) will be making the 483rd start of his career, including the regular season and playoffs, but this will be his biggest. He’ll have a chance to send the Astros to their second World Series title in three seasons. He’s allowed four earned runs in three of his past four playoff starts, but the Astros’ confidence will be soaring with the 36-year-old getting the ball. Verlander is 0-5 with a 5.73 ERA in six career World Series starts.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Nationals: This will be the fourth elimination game the Nationals have played this month, and if there’s anything to be taken from the first three, it’s that everyone will be available. Ideally, Martinez would only hand the ball to Sean Doolittle or Daniel Hudson after Strasburg departs. But the options are numerous.
Astros: Sunday’s blowout win in Game 5 means manager AJ Hinch was able to keep Harris from pitching in three games in a row, so he’ll have two full days of rest. So will closer Roberto Osuna. Joe Smith, who has had a terrific postseason, threw 16 pitches in Game 5 and will be ready to go. The Astros could have Game 5 starter Gerrit Cole ready to throw an inning, as well; if not in Game 6, then certainly Game 7, if it comes to that.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Nationals: After an off-day Monday and with no tomorrow if they lose, everyone will be available.
Any injuries of note?
Nationals: Suzuki (right hip flexor) did not start the past two games, but he was available to pinch-hit. The Nats were optimistic with the off-day he’d be ready to return for Game 6, but Gomes once again got the starting nod behind the plate. Scherzer (neck) received a cortisone shot on Sunday, and he told a group of reporters "I'm good" after throwing in the outfield on Tuesday.
Who is hot and who is not?
Nationals: After a brief slump in Games 3 and 4, Soto responded with a multihit game in Game 5, which included crushing a solo homer off Cole, his second of the Series.
Astros: Alvarez (6-for-11) hit his first World Series homer in Game 5 and has put together a solid Series after a woeful start to the playoffs. Brantley (.400), Chirinos (.364, two homers), Altuve (.360), Gurriel (.318) and Springer (.316) have all swung the bat well in the Fall Classic. Bregman is 4-for-22 with two homers, Correa is 3-for-19 and Reddick is 1-for-9 in the World Series.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The home team is 43-24 all-time in Games 6 of the World Series. ... Altuve has reached base in 25 consecutive playoff games (since Game 7 of 2017 World Series). ... This is just the third World Series in which the road team has won each of the first five games, joining the Yankees’ comeback win over the Braves in 1996 and the White Sox upset of the Cubs in '06. No World Series has seen the road team win each of the first six contests, which is in play Tuesday. ... Road teams have won seven straight World Series games dating back to the Dodgers’ 18-inning marathon victory over the Red Sox in last year’s Game 3, setting a record. ... Home teams are now 17-18 in the 2019 postseason.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.