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Bregman’s slam sends Astros past Nationals 8-1, tie Series 2-2

Updated October 26, 2019 - 10:30 pm

WASHINGTON — Not bad for a TBA.

José Urquidy outpitched all those big-name aces who preceded him, the unheralded Houston rookie quieting Washington’s bats and the Nationals Park crowd, too.

Alex Bregman busted out of his slump with a go-ahead single in the first inning and a grand slam in the seventh, and the resurgent Astros routed the Nationals 8-1 Saturday night for a 2-all tie in a World Series that’s been one big road show.

“From the very beginning I thought he was calm, I thought he was in control of his stuff,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said about Urquidy. “His fastball had a little extra life to it. It’s had good life this postseason. And then he just came up with big pitch after big pitch.”

Game 1 winner Max Scherzer takes the mound Sunday night hoping to get Washington a home Series victory for the first time since the Senators won at Griffith Stadium in 1933. In a rematch of the opener, Gerrit Cole goes for Houston after losing for the first time since May.

Visiting teams have won the first four games for the first time since 1996, when the Yankees broke the pattern in Game 6 against Atlanta to take the title.

Game 6 will be Tuesday night in Houston, when the Astros lose their road-field advantage.

“This is what it’s all about,” Bregman said. “This is a beautiful thing. It’s two teams battling it out. They’ve got great pitching, great offenses. It’s been fun so far, and just want to keep it rolling.”

Yuli Gurriel also drove in a run in the first as Houston strung together four singles in a seven-pitch span for a 2-0 lead against Patrick Corbin. Robinson Chirinos homered for the second straight day, a two-run drive that boosted the lead to 4-0 in the fourth.

Fans started leaving in the seventh, when the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate and battered the bullpen. Bregman, who began the night in a 1-for-13 Series slide, had the big blow, driving a low, inside fastball from Fernando Rodney into the left field stands of the ballpark where he was the All-Star Game MVP in 2018.

Bregman held his bat high as he slowly walked out of the batter’s box, then took nearly 30 seconds to circle the bases.

“Was just trying to hit the ball in the air and drive in a run, and ended up driving in four,” he said.

Orange-clad Houston fans in the right field upper deck chanted “Let’s go Astros!” as Nationals fans were silenced. Wild-card Washington lost consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 13-14 against Atlanta.

Starting pitchers were the talk of the Series coming in, with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer and Corbin combining for 12 All-Star selections and three Cy Young Awards. The baseball cards of Houston’s Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke shine with 17 All-Star picks, two Cy Youngs and one MVP.

But there were just five 1-2-3 innings by starters in the first three games, and the most consecutive outs were turned in by Nationals veteran Aníbal Sánchez, who retired seven straight in Game 3.

Urquidy, a 24-year-old right-hander who rebounded from Tommy John surgery in 2016, exceeded them all.

“Maybe he doesn’t have the Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole name, but he’s got good stuff,” Washington’s Trea Turner said.

Urquidy wasn’t even announced as Houston’s starter until after Game 3, with Hinch hoping to piece together innings any way he could.

The rookie had never pitched above Class A when he began the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, then was bumped up to Triple-A Round Rock in mid-May and made his major league debut in July. He faced the Nationals in just his 12th big league appearance, joining Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Jaime García (2011) as the only Mexican starting pitchers in Series history.

Urquidy allowed two hits in five scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none. Mixing four-seam fastballs in the mid-90s (mph) with two-seamers, sliders, curves and changeups, he set down the Nationals in order in the second, fourth and fifth, retiring his final nine batters. He threw 30 of his first 38 pitches for strikes, 45 of 67 overall.

“He flipped his percentages,” Washington’s Adam Eaton said. “He threw me three sliders my first at-bat. And he throws it like 10% of the time. So I was just like, going back, scratching my noggin.”

Josh James, Will Harris, Héctor Rondón, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski combined for two-hit relief to close it out for Houston.

Washington’s best chance to get back into the game came in the sixth, when Harris relieved with two on and one out. Anthony Rendon singled off the pitcher’s leg, loading the bases, and Juan Soto drove in a run with a groundout. Harris then struck out Howie Kendrick. After going 7 for 21 with runners in scoring position in the first two games, the Nationals are 1 for 19 in the last two.

Houston flipped for the positive, going 9 for 23 with RISP after starting 3 for 17 in the two losses. The Astros burst ahead with timely hitting for the second straight night, getting consecutive one-out singles by José Altuve, Michael Brantley, Bregman and Gurriel.

Brantley had three hits, raising his Series average to .471 (8 for 17). Bregman also finished with three hits.

Chirinos, who homered off the screen on the left field foul pole to drive in Houston’s final run in Game 3, sent a flat changeup from Corbin deep into the left field seats, then slapped his chest and grinned as he skipped across home plate. The catcher doubled in the ninth and is 4 for 11 against the Nationals.

Signed to a $140 million, six-year contract as a free agent last offseason, Corbin dropped to 1-3 in three postseason starts and four relief appearances. He actually lowered his ERA to 6.64.

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