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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Coming off one of the worst performances of the year, Lovie Smith met with the media and addressed some questions about if the Texans would make any changes to the team or coaching staff this week. Here are some quick observations.

1. Washington was just better. Before taking the first question, Lovie said after watching the film it was clear Washington was the better team on Sunday. The team didn't play well upfront (on offense) and didn't have much of a chance to win the game. He believed the team did some good things on defense and played the run better, but were unable to take the ball away.

2. Lovie made it seem like changes are definitely coming at QB. When asked if any changes would be made this week to the QB or the coaching staff, he basically said he would talk to the players before the media if changes were in the works. Smith said the players were off today and not in the building. He followed that up by saying, “We're not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will.”

3. Hitting that “rookie wall.” Coach Smith was asked if hitting the “rookie wall” could be causing some of the team's struggles. He brought up Kenyon Green's challenges at guard, admitting that taking a “pounding every time” can be tough. But if they have hit the rookie wall, he hasn't “noticed it.”

4. Sometimes you need a spark. When asked if football teams sometimes require a spark, he said yes. “Especially when you've lost as many games as we have.” Davis Mills and Kenyon Green have to be the first names that come to mind, and making a change on the o-line probably doesn't qualify as a spark.

5. At a certain point, you are who you are. Lovie didn't dance around it, he said “What's been put on video is probably who we are now, I acknowledge that.” This is the type of statement the fans really needed to hear. Owning up to what everyone can clearly see and addressing this head on matters. Most fans fully understand the team is in a rebuild, just be as honest as you can with everybody. Not doing this in the postgame press conference on Sunday, had to be a big part of why the media was coming at him with more conviction.

6. Expect Kenyon Green to keep playing despite Sunday's performance. This is why I believe a change will be made at QB this week, and not offensive guard. Lovie talked about if a player is struggling and he's still your best option, they'll have to get their “nose bloodied” and get better. No argument here. Green is a first round pick at guard, he's only going to get better if he plays. Give him some help if he needs it, but has to be out there. And let's face it, he is the best option at left guard.

7. Coaches decide who will play if there's going to be a change. When asked, Smith said the coaches decide who's playing. GM Nick Caserio and CEO Cal McNair will be in the loop, but coaches make the call on who starts.

8. “Kyle Allen can make all the throws.” Lovie was asked his thoughts on the Texans backup QB and said, “He (Allen) has a history of good play in the NFL.” When asked about Mills, he said he's seen some growth from the second-year QB, but it's hard to talk about how much someone has grown after yesterday. Yikes, that says it all right there.

Final thoughts

You really get a sense of the tone by watching the full presser above, so I do recommend it. I came away also feeling this possible switch to Kyle Allen may only last a week or so. But at this point in the season, everything has to be evaluated. Including OC Pep Hamilton. If Kyle Allen plays a game or two and the offense still stinks, some of the blame must fall on Pep. But if Allen plays well and long enough to where it doesn't look like the offense is the problem, you have your answer on Davis Mills. At least this season, anyway.

Of course, many fans want the Texans to finish the season with the worst record, so they get the first pick in the draft. If Kyle Allen does get to play and ends up winning a few games, it could be bittersweet. The Texans do have some cushion in the standings for the first pick. Hopefully, the team can get all their answers at QB and OC while still locking up the first pick in the draft. Alabama QB Bryce Young would be a nice Christmas present for Texans fans after a tough year.

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