Finally playing like a team that led baseball with 107 wins this season, the Houston Astros pulled level in the World Series on Saturday by routing the Washington Nationals 8-1.
Alex Bregman smashed a grand slam home run and Jose Urquidy threw five scoreless innings as Houston equalised the best-of-seven Major League Baseball final at 2-2.
Bregman blasted a towering ball that curled just inside the left-field pole off Nationals reliever Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning to give the Astros their final margin, becoming the first third baseman to drive in five runs in a World Series game.
“I was just trying to hit the ball in the air and drive in a run and I ended up driving in four,” Bregman said. “What a great team win. We did a great job today coming out and applying pressure.”
Urquidy allowed only two hits while striking out four, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander tossing 45 of his 67 pitches for strikes to baffle Washington batters. He became only the second Mexican starter to win a World Series game after Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
“It means a lot to me. It’s history for me. I feel very special for that,” Urquidy said. “I’m proud to have followed Fernando Valenzuela and very proud to do what I’ve done.”
The host Nationals were to start game-one winner Max Scherzer in game five on Sunday against Houston’s Gerrit Cole, whose loss in the opener was his first defeat since May after a 19-0 run in 25 starts over five months.
“We haven’t hit the last couple days but I have confidence we will bounce back and get some big hits tomorrow,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.
“We can’t do nothing to change what has happened. Let’s get ready for tomorrow. Don’t think ahead of the next game. Focus on the here and now.”
When a World Series has been deadlocked 2-2, the game-five winner has gone on to win the title two-thirds of the time.
Game six will be on Tuesday in Houston, where game seven will be played on Wednesday if needed.
The Astros, seeking a second title in three seasons, are trying to become only the fourth club to drop the first two games at home and rally to win the World Series.
The Nationals are trying to win the first title in the club’s 50-year history and the first crown for Washington since 1924.
“This is what it’s all about. It’s a beautiful thing – two teams battling it out,” Bregman said. “We got great pitching, great offense. Has been fun so far, want to keep it rolling.”
Houston seized a 2-0 lead in the first inning on consecutive singles by Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Bregman and Yuli Gurriel but Robinson Chirinos hit into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play to limit the damage for the Nats.
Chirinos homers again
Chirinos redeemed himself in the fourth when, after Carlos Correa walked, he smashed a two-run homer into the left-field stands for a 4-0 Astros lead.
It was the third playoff homer and second round-tripper of the World Series for the 35-year-old Venezuelan catcher. He became the first catcher since Ted Simmons in 1982 to homer in back-to-back World Series games.
Urquidy, only the third Mexican-born starter in World Series history and the first right-hander from his homeland, silenced Washington bats early.
“After the first inning I felt my body was more relaxed to pitch,” Urquidy said. “I was thinking a couple of moments, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the World Series pitching.’
“My dream was to make major leagues. I never imagined to make World Series and win game four. I’m proud of myself.”
But when the Astros removed him in the sixth inning, Washington scored on a bases-loaded ground out to first base by Juan Soto.
Houston responded in the seventh when Kyle Tucker walked, took second on a walk to George Springer and third on a Brantley single that loaded the bases for Bregman’s four-run blast.
Washington only managed one hit after that over the last three innings but leftfielder Solo denied a Houston run by throwing out Chirinos at home plate in the ninth inning.