HOUSTON -- It would be mathematically offensive to call Wednesday’s Game 2 of this World Series between the Nationals and Astros a must-win for Houston. But the sentiment isn’t entirely incorrect.
Teams that go down 0-2 at home in the current 2-3-2 format have come back to win the World Series only three of 25 times (12 percent). The last team to go down 0-2 at home and rally to win was the 1996 Yankees -- two years before a fellow named Juan Soto was born.
So the Astros have a lot riding on Justin Verlander in another superb starting-pitching setup in which the Nats will counter with Stephen Strasburg. Houston has been backed into a corner in the postseason before and come out punching, and it remains to be seen to what extent Verlander’s vast experience on this stage works in his favor.
“I think you know what to expect out of the nerves and the anxiousness,” he said, “but it doesn't make it go away.”
It was an open question whether the six-day layoff that preceded this Series would have an impact on the Nationals. But they proved ready, not rusty, in the 5-4 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday night, and they hope to ride that momentum -- and Strasburg, who is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in this postseason -- to a commanding 2-0 lead before heading back home for the District’s first World Series game in 86 years.
“We respect the heck out of [the Astros],” Nats veteran Ryan Zimmerman said, “and we know we've got a long way to go.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 2 is tonight at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
All World Series games will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated FOX subscribers through a participating pay TV provider.
What are the starting lineups?
Nationals: In Game 1, Washington became the first team to score at least five earned runs and hand Gerrit Cole a loss since May 22, thanks to the efforts of Soto, who collected three hits, drove in three runs and stole a base. Manager Dave Martinez is rolling out the same lineup vs. Verlander.
Here is Washington's lineup:
Astros: The only assured change in the lineup is Robinson Chirinos replacing Martin Maldonado at catcher with Verlander on the mound.
Here is Houston's lineup:
Who are the starting pitchers?
Nationals: Strasburg (3-0, 1.64 ERA this postseason) has been the Nats’ best starter this postseason, and his most recent start against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series might have been his best. He struck out 12 in seven innings, yielding only an unearned run against the Cards. He’s had nine days off since that outing.
Astros: Verlander (1-2, 3.70 ERA this postseason) will pitch in one of the biggest games of his career, trying to even the series heading back to Washington. In his last three starts in the postseason, one of which was on short rest after allowing one hit in seven scoreless innings in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Verlander is 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA. He allowed four runs in the first inning in Game 5 of the ALCS on Friday before retiring 21 of the final 22 Yankees he faced.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Nationals: Washington endured a short start from Max Scherzer to work around their thin bullpen to win Game 1, using Patrick Corbin in relief, but they might have to find a different formula for Game 2. Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson both recorded four outs on Tuesday night, but Tanner Rainey was shaky. Those are clearly the only relievers Martinez feels like he can trust. With an off-day after Game 2, expect the Nats to lean on them again if they can get an early lead.
Astros: Despite losing Game 1, Cole worked seven innings, allowing Houston to use only two relievers in Will Harris and Joe Smith. Harris threw 18 pitches, and Smith threw six. The Astros will aim for Verlander to go deep and give the ball again to Harris, along with setup man Ryan Pressly and closer Roberto Osuna in Game 2.
Any injuries of note?
Who is hot and who is not?
Nationals: After a brief slump to start the NLCS, Soto has recorded back-to-back multihit games, going 5-for-8 with a homer and four RBIs. Hudson had not given up a run in six appearances this postseason before allowing one on three hits Tuesday in Game 1.
Astros: Altuve is hitting .333 (16-for-48) with five home runs this postseason, which leads Houston. No other regulars are batting higher than Brantley’s .261. Springer (.184), Correa (.174) and Reddick (.125) continue to struggle in the postseason, though Springer went 2-for-3 with a homer and an RBI double in Game 1 of the World Series. Alvarez also had a couple of hits and a walk on Tuesday.