HOUSTON — Stephen Strasburg took a gem into the ninth inning and Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead home run, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.
Washington has matched the Astros pitch for pitch, hit for hit, win for win — even home run celebration for home run celebration.
Now, it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 to decide the first World Series in which the visiting team won the first six.
Adam Eaton and Soto hit solo homers off Justin Verlander in the fifth, Anthony Rendon also went deep and drove in five runs, and the Nationals beat the Astros 7-2 Tuesday night to tie the Series at three games apiece.
Fired up after a disputed call at first base went against them in the seventh, the Nationals padded their lead moments later when Rendon homered off Will Harris. Washington manager Dave Martinez, still enraged at umpires, was ejected during the seventh-inning stretch, screaming as a pair of his coaches held him back while the crowd sang along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Rendon added a two-run double off Chris Devenski in the ninth to just about seal it after Strasburg gutted through without his best fastball to throw five-hit ball for 8 1/3 innings.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, boosted by an injection of painkiller, is primed to return from an irritated nerve in his neck to start Game 7, Martinez said before the game. Scherzer was warming up in the seventh before Rendon’s homer, then sat down as Martinez became the first manager tossed from a Series game since Atlanta’s Bobby Cox in 1996.
Now the Nationals will attempt their ultimate comeback in a year in which they were written off time after time, hoping for the first title in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the Montreal Expos and the first for Washington since the Senators in 1924. Zack Greinke will be on the mound for the Astros, who led the majors with 107 wins and are seeking their second title in three seasons.
Visiting teams have won three straight Game 7s in the Series since the Cardinals defeated Texas at home in 2011.
Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start — the Nats were given just a 1.6% chance to win the Series on May 23 — to finish 93-69. They rebounded from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against Milwaukee in the NL wild-card game, a two games to one deficit vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and a 2-1, fifth-inning deficit in Game 6 vs. the Astros.
Outscored 19-3 at Nationals Park while going 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position, the Nationals got the strong outing they needed from Strasburg, who allowed his only runs in the first inning, struck out seven and walked two while throwing 104 pitches.
He improved to 5-0 in six postseason starts this October despite failing to get a swing and miss in the first two innings for the first time this year, and eight of nine swings and misses overall were on breaking balls.