The Nationals look to pull off the big upset again tonight as they return to Minute Maid Park for Game 6 of the 2019 World Series against the Astros.
They have one of their top starters heading to the mound in Stephen Strasburg, who has put together a 4-0 record with a 1.93 ERA in five games this postseason. His career record in postseason play is astounding: 5-2 with a 1.34 ERA in eight games (seven starts) with 64 strikeouts in 47 innings.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman on his confidence level in having the right-hander on the bump for another elimination game: "Pretty high. He's been doing it all year, and pretty much the past few years in the playoffs for us. Whenever we need a big game or a big outing, he steps up and gives us one. We have all the confidence in the world in him, and he'll be going up against another good pitcher."
The Nats are back to an all-hands-on-deck mentality. Of course, Max Scherzer is likely not available with trapezius and neck spasms. But manager Davey Martinez has heard from his top six pitchers, who say they are ready to help out in a must-win situation.
"They've been unbelievable, they really have," Martinez said. "Every one of those guys. It's not just six, but (Wander) Suero has been a big out for us here lately, he's done well. (Fernando) Rodney pitching three days in a row. All these guys have done really well. I'm proud of them.
"This was all based on conversations that I've had with them since the end of September, and they're all in. I had guys last night telling me, 'Hey, whatever it takes, man, I'm good to go.' (AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez) felt he could throw 150 pitches. So like I said, they're all in. And I'm proud of every one of them."
The Nats would like to follow a game pattern that helped them at the beginning of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals: have their starter eat up innings, keep the Astros off the board and look to score on multiple rallies to put the pressure on Justin Verlander. The three runs scored in three games at home over the weekend has to be erased from memory. But Martinez said the Nats can learn from their offensive struggles over the weekend against Houston pitching.
"You know, when I look back and (was) watching, we're missing our pitches," Martinez said. "I want us to be a little bit more aggressive on the fastballs. Also, we're facing some really good pitchers. So it's imperative that - it's tough enough to hit with two strikes on, but you've got Gerrit Cole on the mound and you're hitting with two strikes, it gets tougher."
A major component to the Nats' turnaround is to get their leadoff hitter on base. Trea Turner has hit just .136 (3-for-22) in the World Series. He needs to get on to steal bases and put some pressure on the Astros.
"I want these guys to just relax and just try to stay in the middle of the field and put the ball in play," Martinez said. "If you look back, we had some pretty good at-bats (Sunday). We hit the ball hard. I talked about Trea specifically. Had nothing to show for it, but he hit the ball pretty good three times.
"So just keep working good at-bats. This will turn around. Keep working good at-bats. Like I said, one guy gets on, walk, whatever, the next guy, and just keep that train going."
Reviewing and previewing: Click here to check out my interview on 106.7 the Fan with Chad Dukes yesterday.