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.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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