The Astros could not get it done when it mattered most

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Houston's season comes to a disappointing end with World Series Game 7 loss to Nationals

Will Harris
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Will Harris leaves after allowing the go-ahead home run to the Nationals in Game 7

The 2019 Astros had the best regular season in franchise history, and one of the best all-around rosters, ever. They battled against the Rays to win a Game 5 in the best-of-five ALDS, then defeated the powerful Yankees in the ALCS. They fell behind 0-2 in the World Series, then rattled off three impressive road wins to come back to Houston for the final two games. Yet, the Astros' season has come to an end with a disappointing loss in World Series Game 7.

The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in World Series Game 7, completing an unprecedented stretch of seven games where the road team won every game. The loss prevents the Astros from winning their second World Series. Here is a breakdown of Game 7:

Final Score: Nationals 6, Astros 2.

Series: Nationals win 4-3.

Winning Pitcher: Patrick Corbin.

Losing Pitcher: Will Harris.

Gurriel puts Houston in front early

As expected, Game 7 started as a low-scoring affair, with both Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke keeping their opponent from blowing the game open early. It was Houston who would get a pivotal early run, though, thanks to a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the second to put the Astros ahead 1-0.

Astros extend the lead while Greinke puts on a defensive clinic

While the Astros were getting runners on base and making Scherzer work for every out, Greinke was doing exactly what the Astros went out and got him for at the trade deadline. He was fantastic in the early innings, getting quick innings thanks to several gems by himself on defense.

Carlos Correa would help give him another run to work with, getting a two-out RBI-single to make it 2-0 to finally give the Astros a hit with runners in scoring position after struggling to that point. The Nationals moved to their bullpen in the bottom of the sixth after Scherzer reached 103 pitches through his five innings while allowing two runs. First out was Patrick Corbin, who would erase a leadoff single by pinch-hitting Jake Marisnick after a strikeout and double play.

Washington fights back with a big seventh

In the top of the seventh, Greinke remained in the game and would allow Washington's first run of the game, a solo home run to Anthony Rendon to cut the lead in half at 2-1. He would walk Juan Soto next, ending his night as A.J. Hinch would come to get him and move on to Will Harris. Harris, who allowed his first runs of the postseason the night before, would falter again in this game, giving up a go-ahead two-run home run to Howie Kendrick to make it a 3-2 Nationals lead.

Harris would allow a single in the next at-bat, getting pulled before recording an out. Houston would bring in their closer to try and stop the bleeding, and Roberto Osuna would get the last two outs of the seventh. That would finalize Greinke's line on the night: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

Nationals add to the lead and take the series

Corbin would hold the Astros scoreless again in the bottom of the seventh, and then in the top of the eighth, the Nationals extended their lead off of Osuna, who remained in the game, getting an RBI-single by Juan Soto to make it 4-2. The Nationals would get another single, and Houston would move on to Ryan Pressly to try and get the last out of the eighth, which he would do.

The Nationals stuck with Corbin in the bottom of the eighth, and he would record another scoreless inning to put Washington three outs away from the win. Joe Smith was next out of Houston's bullpen to try and keep it a two-run game and give his team a chance to rally in the bottom half. He would get only one out before loading the bases, bringing in Jose Urquidy. Urquidy would allow the dagger, a two-RBI single up the middle to Adam Eaton, to push it to a 6-2 lead for Washington.

In the bottom of the ninth, down four runs, the Astros had the top of their lineup against the new reliever for Washington, Daniel Hudson. They would come away empty, watching the Nationals win the World Series and begin their celebration inside Minute Maid Park.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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