HOUSTON — In a battle of aces, it was only a matter of time before someone cracked.

Unfortunately for the Astros, it was Justin Verlander.

Verlander, the Astros 36-year-old dominant right-hander and AL Cy Young favorite, gave up a seventh-inning home run to Kurt Suzuki that broke a tie and the Washington Nationals rolled to a 12-3 victory in Game 2 of the World Series.

It was an inning that saw the Nationals bat around their lineup and the Astros give up six runs. And with it, their chances greatly diminish of a second World Series title in three years.

The Nationals now lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 as the teams head to Washington.

“Where would you like me to start?” Astros manager AJ Hinch said in his postgame press conference.

There was Suzuki’s leadoff home run that broke a 2-2 tie. Verlander followed with a walk to Victor Robles and his night was done after six innings of work.

With Verlander gone, the Nationals jumped on the Astros bullpen.

Ryan Pressly, pitching in relief, walked the first batter he faced. Hinch said he called on Pressly to throw some sliders and give the Nationals a different look the fourth time through the lineup.

Following a sacrifice bunt that moved runners in scoring position, Hinch decided to intentionally walk Juan Soto, the Nationals’ 20-year-old phenom who’s wrecked the Astros pitchers this World Series. (Soto is 4-for-7 in the series with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI).

With the bases loaded, the Astros defense couldn’t help Pressly out of the jam.

Howie Kendrick hit a hard ground ball to third base that Alex Bregman bobbled and couldn’t make a play. It was ruled a hit and a run scored, making it a 4-2 game.

In the next at bat, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run single to center.

Suddenly, it was 6-2 Nationals.

Then Ryan Zimmerman hit a soft ground ball to third that scored Kendrick. This time, Bregman sailed his throw to first that let Cabrera cross the plate.

Just like that, the Nationals led 8-2 and were in full control.

So, AJ Hinch, where to start?

“It started with the leadoff homer,” Hinch said. “And we didn’t make a couple plays and they made contact in big at bats. And the inning spiraled out of control.”

Verlander is still searching for his first career win in the World Series after his sixth start. With Wednesday’s loss, he’s now 1-3 in this postseason with a 4.15 ERA. He did, however, make MLB history with a strikeout in the second inning. He’s now the only pitcher to record 200 strikeouts in the postseason.

And though he was handed the loss, he and Nationals starter Stephen Strausburg turned in the kind of performance you’d expect from two aces. After each pitcher gave up a pair of runs in the first inning, they cruised through the opposing lineups, combining for 13 strikeouts.

Neither faced any serious trouble until the Astros threatened in the sixth.

Yuli Gurriel hit a one-out double to left field. The Nationals chose to intentionally walk Yordan Alvarez and instead pitch to Carlos Correa, who’s batting .160 this postseason.

The move paid off when Correa popped out to shallow center field.

Strasburg then got left-hander Kyle Tucker, who was called to pinch hit for catcher Robinson Chirinos, to strikeout on a backdoor curveball to end the inning.

It was another game the Astros couldn’t come up with a clutch hit. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. For the series, they’re 3-for-17.

Although the Astros failed to score in the sixth, they pushed Strasburg to 114 pitches with the likelihood of forcing the Nationals to turn to their hit-or-miss bullpen. Houston scored two runs off Washington relievers in Game 1’s 5-4 loss to pull the game within a run.  

Instead, the Nationals found their bats in the top of the seventh, jumped on Verlander and decimated the Astros relievers.

Washington scored 10 runs in the final three innings. And though the Astros finally find a spark of life in their offense in the ninth inning when Martin Maldanado hit a solo home run, it was too little too late.

Houston now travels to Washington in an 0-2 hole that history shows doesn’t favor their hopes of winning another championship.

Only 11 teams in all of MLB history that have fallen into an 0-2 deficit have gone on to win the World Series.
And of the past 18 teams that have gone down 0-2, only one has rallied to win the title: the 1996 New York Yankees.

When asked about the team’s prospects heading to Washington, Hinch said, “Clearly, the Nats have outplayed us—bottom line. They’ve come in our building and played two really good games. …  They’re halfway to a race to four wins. So, clearly Game 3 becomes critical for us.

“We’re going to get on a plane, we’re going to go to Washington. I doubt the Nats are going to feel too confident that they have this sewed up and they can start planning a parade. We’re going to give them a fight for it.”

They’re going to have to fight even harder after a night that Verlander and the Astros matched the Nationals step-for-step for six innings.

It was a battle of two aces.

But unfortunately for the Astros, their ace cracked first.

Ninth Inning 

BOTTOM 9

Jake Marisnick: Grounds out to third to end the game. Nationals win 12-3.

Altuve: Singles to center. Springer to second.

Springer: Reaches on an error.

Reddick: Grounds out to first.

Martin Maldanado: Hits a solo home run to left center field. Nationals lead 12-3.

Correa: Flies out to center field.

Pitching Change: Javy Guerra takes over Tanner Rainey.

TOP 9

Yep. The Nationals hit added another run on a solo homer by pinch hitter Michael Taylor. So, there’s that. It’s 12-2 now. Mercy rule, anyone?

Daniel Gotera sums this World Series up pretty well.

“The Nationals have played great baseball. The Astros have not, at all. That’s the story of this World Series.”

Score: Washington 12, Houston 2

1 hits, 1 runs, 0 errors, 0 left on base

At Bats

Gerardo Parra: Flies out to center field to end the inning.

Turner: Strikes out swinging.

Michael Taylor: Hits solo home run to left field. Washington leads 12-2.

Suzuki: Grounds out to third.

Pitching change: Chris Devenski comes in for Josh James

Eighth Inning

BOTTOM 8

A quick, 1-2-3 inning for the Astros who look defeated at this point.

Score: Washington 11, Houston 2

0 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 0 left on base

At-Bats

Alvarez: Strikes out on four pitches.

Gurriel: Flies out center field.

Bregman: Flies out to right field.

Pitching change: Tanner Rainey takes over for Rodney.

TOP 8

This is getting ugly. The Astros bullpen seemingly has no answers for the Nationals lineup as Washington tacks on three more runs and takes an 11-2 lead.

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Empty seats are seen at Minute Maid Park during the eighth inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. The Nationals were leading the game 11-2. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Score: Washington 11, Houston 2

3 hits, 3 runs, 0 errors, 2 left on base

At Bats

Zimmerman: Grounds out to second to end the inning.

Cabrera: Singles to right-center field. Soto scores, Kendrick to third. Nationals lead 11-2.

Pitching change: Hector Rondon replaces Josh James.

Kendrick: Singles to left field; Soto advances to second.

Soto: Walks on seven pitches.

Rendon: Strikes out swinging.

Eaton: Home run. Robles scores. Nationals take a 10-2 lead.

Turner: Strikes out swinging.

Robles: Strikes out swinging; reaches first on a pass ball.

Seventh Inning

BOTTOM 7

The Astros can’t get anything going to trim the Nationals lead. They have six outs to do so.

Score: Washington 8, Houston 2

0 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At-Bats

Brantley: Grounds out to first to end the inning.

Altuve: Pops out to shortstop.

Springer: Grounds into a force out, Reddick out at second.

Reddick: Walks on seven pitches.

Pitching change: Fernando Rodney replaces Strasburg.

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Fans watch during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP

TOP 7

Well, there it is. The Nationals are the first to break through—and in a huge way. Suzuki hit a solo home run off Verlander to lead off the inning. Then, Washington jumped on Ryan Pressly, who came on in relief for Verlander, for four runs—three earned. 

Followed by a couple miscues at third base by Bregman—a bobbled ball on a hard groudner and an error on a throw to first base—Washington takes 8-2 lead.

Score: Washington 8, Houston 2

4 hits, 6 runs, 1 error, 2 left on base

At Bats

Suzuki: In his second at-bat of the inning, grounds out to shortstop for the final out.

Pitching change: Josh James replaces Pressly.

Zimmerman: Singles to third base scores Kendrick, an error by Bregman on the throw to first allows Cabrera to score and the Nationals take an 8-2 lead.

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Houston Astros' Alex Bregman can't handle a ball hit by Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Cabrera: Hits a two-run single to center field that scores Turner and Soto to make it a 6-2 game. Kendrick at second.

Kendrick: Singles on a hard hit to third base that Bregman can’t handle. Robles scores to make it 4-2. Bases loaded, two outs: Turner to third, Soto to second, Kendrick at first.

SotoIntentional walk to load the bases. Soto at first, Turner second, Robles at third. Two outs.

Rendon: Flies out to center field. Springer makes a great catch and throw to keep Robles at third and keep it a 3-2 game.

Eaton: Sacrifice bunt moves Robles to third, Turner to second.

Turner: Walks on six pitches.

Pitching change: Ryan Pressly takes over for Verlander. 

Verlander’s stat line: 6 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 6 strikeouts, 3 walks, 107 pitches (69 strikes)

Robles: Walks on seven pitches.

Suzuki: Hits a 1-0 fastball over the wall in left field; gives Nationals 3-2 lead.

THROWBACK WEDNESDAY

KHOU's Jason Bristol shared this video of Alex Bregman during his high school days in New Mexico.

Sixth Inning

BOTTOM 6

Who’s going to break first: the Nationals or Astros? The Astros threatened in the inning with two on and two outs and left-hander Kyle Tucker at the plate. Tucker worked the count full before Strasburg caught him looking with a backdoor curveball to end the inning.

Strasburg topped 100 pitches in the inning—114 by the end. And as Jason Bristol points out, “At one point in his career, that was not allowed.” Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and the Nationals have been cautious of his workload in the years after.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 2 left on base

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Houston Astros' Kyle Tucker reacts after striking out to end the sixth inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP

At Bats

Tucker: Struck out looking on a backdoor curveball for the final out.

Pinch hitter: Left-hander Kyle Tucker comes in for Robinson Chirinos.

Correa: Pops out to shallow center field. Did a nice job of laying off some really close pitches to work a full count. Strasburg jammed him on an inside changeup.

Alvarez: Intentional walk; two on, one out.

Gurriel: Doubles on a curveball to left field after working the count full. It’s Gurriel’s 12th career double in the postseason, a team record, per the Astros.

Bregman: Grounds out on a hard hit to shortstop. Bregman’s at-bats have impressed KHOU baseball analyst Jeremy Booth, who said earlier tonight: “Bregman with two hard contacts and better balance at the plate. He’s one at bat from leaving the struggles behind him.”

TOP 6

Well, look at that. Verlander gets his first 1-2-3 inning of the night. He’s cruising.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

0 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 0 left on base

At Bats

Zimmerman: Grounds out to shortstop; Correa fires a laser to first to get the out.

Cabrera: Strikes out on a 95 mph fastball, Verlander’s sixth of the night.

Kendrick: Flies out to center field.

Fifth Inning

BOTTOM 5

Michael Brantley made good contact on a 2-2 curveball off Strasburg that sailed to the warning track in center field. But Victor Robles was there to make the out, stranding Altuve at first.

Strasburg and Verlander are locked in a pitchers’ duel after five innings. After both gave up two runs in the first, each have settled in to tame the opposing offenses.

Since the first inning:

Verlander: 0 runs, 4 hits, 3 Ks

Strasburg: 0 runs, 3 hits, 5Ks

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At Bats

Brantley: Hits a ball to the warning track in center field for the third out.

Altuve: Gets his third-hit of the night with a single to left field.

Springer: Grounds out to shortstop after Trea Tucker makes a great snag for the out.

Reddick: Grounds out to first to leadoff the inning.

TOP 5

After battling with the most dangerous hitting in the Nationals’ lineup—Juan Soto—Verlander got the 20-year-old rookie to ground out to first base to end the inning. Verlander walked Anthony Rendon with two outs to bring Soto to the plate.  Verlander needed 21 pitches to get through that inning.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At-Bats

Soto: Grounds out to first base on a 3-2 curveball to end the inning.

Rendon: Walks on seven pitches after battling with Verlander.

Eaton: Grounds into a double play to shortstop Carlos Correa.

Turner: Opens the inning with a leadoff single to right field.

Fourth Inning

BOTTOM 4

Strasburg is finding a groove of his own and didn’t let Alvarez score after giving up a one-out single. After a wild first inning for both pitchers, this one is turning into a duel among aces, folks.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At Bats

Chirinos: Strikes out on a changeup at the knees for the third out.

Correa: Grounds out to third base; Alvarez advances to second.

Alvarez: Singles to right field past a diving Asdrubal Cabrera.

Gurriel: Strikes out on a 94 mph fastball at the letters.

TOP 4

Verlander has done well settling in and working around base runners since giving up two runs in the first inning.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At Bats

Robles: Flies out to shallow center field for the third out.

Suzuki: Flies out to deep left-center field.

Zimmerman: Hits a soft infield single that Verlander can’t make a play on.

Cabrera: Strikes out for second time.

Third Inning

BOTTOM 3

After tying the game up with a monster home run in the first, Bregman found himself in another moment to change the game. This time, Strasburg got Bregman to ground out to short and end the Astros’ threat.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 1 error, 2 left on base

At Bats

Bregman: Grounds into a force out to shortstop for the third out.

Brantley: After a six-pitch at bat, hits a two-out single to right field; Altuve advances to third.

Altuve: Reaches on an error by Nationals shortstop Trea Turner.

Springer: Flies out to shallow center field.

Josh Reddick: Strikes out on a changeup out of the zone.

TOP 3

Like KHOU baseball analyst Jeremy Booth said, Verlander gets better as the game goes on. He worked around a two-out double by Juan Soto to end the inning.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

1 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At Bats

Kendrick: Flies out to right field for the third out.

Soto: Doubles to the right field corner.

Rendon: Grounds out on a 91 mph slider to shortstop.

Eaton: Flies out to center field.

Second Inning 

BOTTOM 2

Like Verlander earlier in the inning, Strasburg makes quick work of the Astros hitters for his first 1-2-3 inning of the game.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

0 hits, 0 runs, 0 errors, 0 left on base

At Bats

Robinson Chirinos: Strikes out on a changeup at the knees for the third out.

Carlos Correa: Strikes out on a curveball at the knees.

Yordan Alvarez: Lines out on a laser to right field.

TOP 2

Add another notch to the Verlander’s Hall of Fame career. With a strikeout of Victor Robles, Verlander became the first pitcher in MLB history to record 200 career strikeouts in the postseason. Verlander froze Robles with a slider at the knees. As KHOU baseball analyst Jeremy Booth notes, "Verlander gets better as he goes."

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

0 hits, 1 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At Bats

Trea Turner: Flies out to right field for the third out.

Victor Robles: Strikes out. With this strikeout, Verlander becomes the first pitcher in MLB history tor each 200 strikeouts—surpassing John Smoltz at 199.

Kurt Suzuki: Singles to center field.

Ryan Zimmerman: Strikes out on six pitches.

First Inning

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Houston Astros' Alex Bregman hits a two-run home run during the first inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP
World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Houston Astros' Alex Bregman celebrates in the dugout after a two-run home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP

BOTTOM 1

Alex Bregman found his swing and crushed a two-run home run to left field to tie the game at 2-2. It could have been 3-2 had Jose Altuve not been thrown out trying to steal third after a one-out double.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 2

3 hits, 2 runs, 0 errors, 0 left on base

At-Bats

Yuli Gurriel: Grounds out to third for the third out.

Alex Bregman: Home run; Brantley scores to tie the game 2-2.

Michael Brantley: Singles to center field.

Jose Altuve: Doubles to left field; later gets caught stealing third.

George Springer: Strikes out on three pitches.

TOP 1

Justin Verlander’s first-inning struggles continue. Verlander walked Trea Turner to start the game and following an Adam Eaton single, Houston's own Anthony Rendon crushed a changeup off the left field wall to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

Score: Washington 2, Houston 0

2 hits, 2 runs, 0 errors, 1 left on base

At-Bats

Asdrubal Cabrera: Strikes out swinging on a high fastball for the third out.

Howie Kendrick: Flies out to right field.

Juan Soto: Strikes out on four pitches.

Anthony Rendon: Doubles off the left field wall; Turner and Eaton score giving Washington a 2-0 lead.

Adam Eaton: Singles to right field; Turner moves to second.

Trea Turner: Walks on four pitches.

Now THAT'S A First Pitch 

World Series Nationals Astros Baseball
Eric Gay/AP

WOW! Gymnast and Spring native Simone Biles did a flip while throwing out the first pitch before the start of the game.

Pregame

Here’s what you need to know about Game 2 tonight.

First Pitch

7:08 p.m. at Minute Maid Park

How You Can Watch

On FS1—or follow along to our live blog right here!

Starting Pitchers

Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 1.64 ERA postseason) vs. Houston’s Justin Verlander (1-2, 3.70 ERA postseason)

Verlander is looking for his first World Series win in his sixth start in the Fall Classic. Strasburg is making his first World Series start. So far this postseason, he's struck out 33 batters and walked only one.

Starting Lineups

Houston Astros starting lineup Game 2 World Series
AP
Washington Nationals starting lineup Game 2 World Series
AP

Statistically Speaking

Teams that fall behind 0-2 in the World Series...well, the statistics show it's not good. There have been 55 teams who have fallen into an 0-2 hole—only 11 have gone on to win the World Series (20 percent). 

Of the last 18 teams that have fallen behind 0-2, 17 have lost the World Series. The last team to win? The New York Yankees who rallied to beat the Atlanta Braves in 1996.

For the Record Books

  • Justin Verlander is four strikeouts away from becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to reach 200 strikeouts.
  • Jose Altuve remains hot at the plate in the postseason. With his 1-for-5 performance in Game 1, Altuve has reached safely in 21 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. That's a franchise best.
  • With his seventh-inning home run, George Springer has homered in five straight World Series game, an MLB record.

Quoteworthy

"We are a results-oriented game, but I like the opportunities that we're creating for ourselves and making them use a lot of pitching tonight is a good sign for the remainder of the series." — Astros manager AJ Hinch following Game 1 loss.

World Series Schedule

  • Game 1: Washington 5, Houston 4 (Washington leads 1-0)
  • Game 2: Tonight, 7:07 p.m., Houston
  • Game 3: Friday, 7:07 p.m., Washington
  • Game 4: Saturday, 7:07 p.m., Washington
  • Game 5*: Sunday, 7:07 p.m., Washington
  • Game 6*: Tuesday, 7:07 p.m., Houston
  • Game 7*: Wednesday, 7:07 p.m., Houston

*If necessary

How We Got Here

The Astros won the American League West with the best record in baseball, 107-55, while the Washington Nationals clinched a wild card berth with a  93-69 record.

In the postseason, the Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the ALDS, then the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS on an epic Jose Altuve home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch the series.

The Washington Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in a wild card game, before stunning the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the ALDS. Then, they made quick work of the St. Louis Cardinals—an old National League division rival of the Astros—in the NLCS and swept them in four games.

On This Day in Astros History

In 2005, the Astros lost Game 2 of the World Series to the Chicago White Sox when Scott Podesdnik hit a walkoff home run to give Chicago a 7-6 win. Houston fell behind 0-2 in the series. Houston was making its first World Series appearance.

More Astros Coverage