The Washington Nationals solved a problem Tuesday night that has confounded all of Major League Baseball over the past five months, handing a rare loss to Houston Astros starter Gerrit Cole on their way to win Game 1 of the World Series.
The Nationals jumped on Cole early, then held on despite some shaky work from their bullpen to claim a 5-4 victory.
Soto Leads Nationals Offense
In the first inning, it looked like it might be business as usual for the Cole Express. A two-run double from Yuli Gurriel gave the Astros an early 2-0 lead — the kind of advantage that has held up over Cole’s 19-game winning streak, which dates back to May.
Solo homers by Ryan Zimmerman in the second and Juan Soto in the fourth tied the game at two. Washington then broke out for three runs in the fifth, capped by a two-run double by Soto that gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead.
The 20-year-old Soto finished the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
“After the first at-bat, I just said, ‘It’s another baseball game,” Soto told reporters afterwards. “In the first at-bat, I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit shaky in my legs.”
Cole stuck around to pitch seven innings, but gave up five runs on eight hits while striking out six.
“It wasn’t my sharpest game,” Cole told the media. “We had to get creative. I thought the fastball was leaking a little bit off the corner a couple of times. I struggled with the curveball command, and kind of buried us in some bad counts.”
If the Nationals have had one defining weakness this season, it’s been their bullpen, which almost came back to bite them again on Tuesday.
Doolittle Earns First World Series Save
Max Scherzer battled through five innings, giving up two runs, but running his pitch count up to 112 before exiting the game. In the seventh inning, George Springer went deep off of Tanner Rainey to cut the deficit to 5-3. In the eighth, Springer doubled off Daniel Hudson to bring home Kyle Tucker and cut the lead to just one.
With the game in the balance, Washington closer Sean Doolittle shut the door, recording a perfect four-out save to give his team an early lead in the World Series.
“You’re so in the moment when it’s happening that you’re not thinking about what it might mean in context, and then it just hits you when you’re done,” Doolittle said afterwards. “We just took the first game and won the first World Series in Nats franchise history and took a lead in the Series. It was really cool to be out there for that.”
Game 2 will take place on Wednesday night in Houston, with the Astros needing a win to avoid going down by two heading into three straight games in Washington. The Nationals will have Stephen Strasburg on the mound, while Houston will have veteran Justin Verlander taking the hill. FanDuel Sportsbook is listing the Astros as a -186 favorite to win Game 2, and tie up the series with the Nationals (+160).