Astros unable to finish it in Game 6

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Houston dominated by Stephen Strasburg as World Series heads to a decisive Game 7

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After dominating in D.C. to take all three games on the road to take a 3-2 lead in the series, the Astros returned home to try and finish the series in front of their home crowd with Justin Verlander on the mound. Once again, though, the road team would come out ahead as the Nationals would get the better of Houston's pitching, winning 7-2 and forcing a Game 7. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 7, Astros 2.

Series: tied 3-3.

Winning Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg.

Losing Pitcher: Justin Verlander.

Nationals score first, but Springer and Bregman respond

It was the Nationals who would strike first in Game 6, getting a leadoff single, moving the runner over on a sacrifice, then getting an RBI-single by Anthony Rendon to put Houston down 1-0 in the top of the first. The Astros fought back immediately, starting with a leadoff double by George Springer.

He moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Altuve, tying the game 1-1. After a strikeout by Michael Brantley on a questionable called third strike, Alex Bregman gave Houston their first lead of the night by crushing a solo home run to the Crawford Boxes, making it a 2-1 Houston advantage.

World Series drought for Verlander continues

The 2-1 lead held through the early goings of the game, with both Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg settling in. Verlander, however, was dealing with long innings that had his pitch count rising and leading him to an early exit. He entered the top of the fifth inning already at 75 pitches, and the Nationals would take advantage.

Washington would get two solo home runs against him in the inning, first a one-out shot by Adam Eaton that tied the game, then a go-ahead moonshot by Juan Soto into the upper deck that gave the Nationals the lead back at 3-2. Verlander would finish the inning, but that would be it for him in this World Series, and leaving down a run would mean he would have to wait at least one more year to get his first win in a World Series start. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR.

Washington extends their lead after a controversial play

It was Brad Peacock taking over for Verlander starting in the top of the sixth, and he would get a quick inning before returning in the seventh. He would allow a leadoff single, then after a very controversial play where Trea Turner was called out at first by interference while running to the bag. Instead of runners on second and third with no outs, it was instead a runner on first with one out.

Will Harris would come in to try and get through the inning and continue his incredible stretch of playoff dominance but instead would get tagged with a two-run home run by Anthony Rendon to extend Washington's lead to 5-2 before he would get through it. Ryan Pressly was next out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth and retired the Nationals in order.

One more game to decide it all

Unlike Verlander, who exited after five innings and a high pitch count, Stephen Strasburg was making quick work of the Astros, which allowed him to stay in the game to start the bottom of the eighth. He would get through that inning as well, sending the 5-2 game to the ninth.

Chris Devenski would pitch in the top half, but he too would suffer runs as Anthony Rendon notched more RBIs with a two-RBI double to blow the game open at 7-2. That would be the final score after Strasburg would get one more out before Sean Doolittle would come in to get the final two outs.

Up Next: One last game. World Series Game 7 will be Wednesday and start at 7:08 PM Central. After being scratched from Game 5, Max Scherzer appears healthy again and will be called on by Washington to start for the Nationals. Houstons has not yet named their starter, but the likely candidate will be Zack Greinke.

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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