Houston now in a big hole in the series

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Houston's late-inning collapse hands Nationals a 2-0 World Series lead

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After a tightly-contested game early, the Washington Nationals exploded against Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly in the seventh inning of the World Series, breaking a 2-2 tie that had been in place since the first inning. The six-run inning would avalanche to a barrage of runs, fueling them to the victory and 2-0 series lead, beating the Houston Astros 12-3 in World Series Game 2. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 12, Astros 3.

Series: Nationals lead 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg.

Losing Pitcher: Justin Verlander.

Nationals tag Verlander early, but Bregman answers for Houston

World Series Game 2 got out to a bleak start for Houston as Justin Verlander, much like in ALCS Game 5 against the Yankees, would get tagged with a disappointing first inning. Before he could record an out, he would allow a four-pitch walk, a single, then a two-RBI double to give Washington an immediate 2-0 lead to shock Verlander and the Minute Maid Park crowd. Verlander would at least stop the bleeding there, retiring the next three batters, including two strikeouts to finish the frame.

In the bottom of the inning, Jose Altuve tried to get Houston's offense going with a one-out double. He would attempt an aggressive steal of third with Michael Brantley at the plate next and get thrown out by a great throw by Kurt Suzuki of the Nationals. That would prove costly as Brantley would hit a single, which likely would have scored Altuve from second, but instead had just a runner on first base. Alex Bregman had other plans, though, ending his recent funk with a game-tying home run off of Stephen Strasburg, making it 2-2 and a new ballgame after one inning.

Both starters settle in before Nationals get a huge seventh inning

After the first inning where both clubs scored two runs, both Strasburg and Verlander would settle in over the next stretch of innings. The Astros had a chance in the bottom of the sixth, getting two on with one out, but Strasburg, over 100 pitches, would get the final two outs to keep the game tied, though that would be it for him in the game.

Verlander, meanwhile, was able to settle in after his first-inning troubles and manage his pitch count to get him into the seventh inning. The second pitch of that seventh inning would end up over the fence, though, on a solo home run by Kurt Suzuki to put the Nationals back in front 3-2. After a walk to the next batter, Verlander's night would come to a close without recording an out in the inning.

Pressly would come in to try and finish the seventh, but not before the Nationals loaded the bases before scoring on a bobbled groundball by Alex Bregman that would go down as a hit in the scorebook. That would give Verlander a fourth earned run on the night. His final line in Game 2: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

With the bases still loaded against Pressly, Asdrubal Cabrera would tack on two more runs to the lead with a two-RBI single, making it a 6-2 game. Pressly would continue to falter, advancing both runners a base on a wild pitch, then allowed both to score on a two-RBI single by Ryan Zimmerman, blowing the game open at 8-2. Josh James would come in for the final out of the inning.

Nationals take both games in Houston

Now in a six-run hole, the Astros would try to chip away against Washington's bullpen. Fernando Rodney would take over for Strasburg in the bottom of the seventh and worked around a leadoff walk for a scoreless inning. Meanwhile, the Nationals added two more runs against Josh James in the top of the eighth on a two-run homer by Adam Eaton, making it 10-2. Later in the same inning, after James could not finish it, Hector Rondon would allow an RBI-single to Cabrera to make it 11-2 before getting the third out.

After coming away empty in the bottom of the eighth, Chris Devenski would make his postseason debut to pitch the top of the ninth. He, too, fell victim to the Nationals after giving up a solo home run to Michael Taylor, who had taken over in center field in the previous inning, making it a ten-run lead for Washington at 12-2. In the bottom of the ninth, Martin Maldonado would get a solo home run to cut the lead back to nine runs, but Houston would come no closer.

Up Next: The World Series will now shift to Washington, D.C. for Games 3 and 4, and 5 if the Astros can avoid a sweep. Game 3 will be on Friday at 7:07 PM Central, and the expected pitching matchup is Zack Greinke for Houston going against Anibal Sanchez for Washington. The Astros will be in must-win mode to try and steal games on the road to get back into the series.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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The Texans should swing for the fences. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With each passing day, the Deshaun drama thickens. It's progressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeting, basically humbling himself to Deshaun.

A city that a few short weeks ago offered up mega star power across the board, has now seen James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and George Springer all depart for a variety of reasons. The impact of Deshaun leaving would be irreversible guaranteeing the Texans resting comfortably in the bottom of the AFC South for the next decade, wallowing in futility.

The saga will only intensify in two weeks should Patrick Mahomes collect another Lombard Trophy. As 2017 draft class contemporaries, Deshaun is comparing his career to #15. Another ring would place Mahomes up 2-0 in that discussion with Watson.

Perhaps the Texans should take a play from the Oilers playbook and inquire on Dabo Swinney. In the pursuit of securing the services of Warren Moon, the Oilers made a power play and secured the services of Moon's former CFL coach, Hugh Campbell. I've attended several luncheons and engagements in which Deshaun served as the keynote speaker. In many of those venues, a short video presentation would include personal greetings and feel good overtures directed to Deshaun from Dabo. The end result was Deshaun lighting up like a Christmas tree. There's a viable relationship in place there.

At the end of the day, Deshaun is a competitor. Losing DeAndre Hopkins was a major loss, but not to the degree that you might think. Deshaun still went out and threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and with a sub-par supporting cast, even pulling guys off of the practice squad in late December contests to fill out the receiving corps. The issue for Watson is trust, and culture. Hence, the recent headlines surrounding the Jets as a future home make very little sense. The Jets in 4 of their last 5 seasons have had double-digit losing seasons. Until the recent resurgence of the Browns, the Jets far and away have held the title of the "laughingstock" of the NFL.

The biggest challenge for the Texans is who could persuade Deshaun to stay? Could team President Jamey Rootes calm down the noise? It certainly won't come from Texans Ring of Honor recipient Andre Johnson. If I were Cal McNair, I would place a call to 105 Sikes Hall in Clemson, SC and ask for Dabo's office. That's as good of a place to start as any other.

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