The Nationals now move to Game 6 in Houston, down three games to two in the best-of-seven World Series. They face an elimination game versus the Astros on Tuesday night, their fourth of these playoffs. And they have their second ace on the mound in an attempt to survive.
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg has been very good this postseason, rolling up a 4-0 record with a 1.93 ERA in five game (four starts). In his first World Series start against the Astros last week, Strasburg allowed just two runs over six innings on seven hits, striking out seven batters and walking one. The Nats won that game 12-3, their last win in the series. Alex Bregman hit a two-run shot to tie the game at 2-2, but that was all Houston could score off of Strasburg.
The right-hander understands what it will be like to face the same opponent twice in a six-day span.
"The schedule, it seems like each year you'll go, you'll play the Phillies and then you'll come around next week and you'll play them again," Strasburg said. "Really, it comes down to execution of pitches. Their approaches might change a little bit, but the important thing is to go out there and pound away and trust your stuff."
Tuesday night's game will be Strasburg's 38th start of the season, dating to his March 30 matchup against the Mets. The most previous starts he had in a season was 34 in 2014. In light of Max Scherzer being scratched from his Game 5 start with trapezius and neck spasms, how does Strasburg feel health-wise coming into such a big start so late in the season?
"It's definitely uncharted territory," Strasburg said. "And I'm just trying to continue to do what I've tried to do all year, just take it one day at a time and just listen to the body."
There is a bit of irony that the next biggest start in Nationals postseason history goes to Strasburg, a pitcher the Nats shut down late in 2012 on the cusp of their first postseason. Strasburg said some alterations to how he approached this season's strength training have played a part in how he feels today.
"I think mechanically I've been able to be a little bit more consistent when I go out there and pitch," he said. "Just made some minor tweaks in the offseason training program. I kind of put more emphasis on just strength, not so much endurance, and trying to get my weight up. And I was able to kind of ride that throughout the year."
The Nats need the win Tuesday to survive. Scherzer was unable to post Sunday night. But Strasburg appears ready for Game 6.
"Again, pitching at this point in the season, it's a tremendous honor, and I'm going to go out there and compete and give it everything I have," he said.