WASHINGTON — It was a complete RISP role reversal, and it led to Houston climbing right back into this World Series.
The Astros, abysmal with runners in scoring position much of the postseason, and especially in the first two games of this series, continually came through when it mattered most Friday night.
That, combined with the Nationals repeatedly failing in those spots, led to a 4-1 Houston victory in front of 43,867 fans at Nationals Park in this city’s first World Series game in 86 years. The Nationals lead the best-of-seven series two games to one.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to come in here down 0-2,” said Jose Altuve, who doubled twice and scored twice. “But we have a great attitude, a great mentality and had confidence that we were going to go out there and win today like we did.”
The Nationals won the first two games in large part by going 7-for-21 with RISP, but they were 0-for-10 and stranded 12 runners in Game 3, including 0-for-8 with eight stranded in the first five innings against Zack Greinke.
The Astros, who came into the night 3-for-17 with RISP in the World Series and 17-for-97 in October, went 4-for-10 Friday, including 4-for-8 through five innings. They stranded 10.
“I feel this team has been doing this all season,” Robinson Chirinos said of having success with RISP. “In the postseason, I feel like we were trying to do too much, too many [guys] trying to be heroes. That’s what we talked about [after Game 2]; don’t try to do too much and keep the line moving.”
Greinke, in trouble for almost all of his 4 2⁄3 innings, allowed one run, seven hits and three walks. “Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we’ve been doing. Greinke got out of some jams. We got opportunities early. We couldn’t capitalize.”
Anibal Sanchez, meanwhile, did not come close to resembling the pitcher who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his NLCS Game 1 start against the Cardinals. He allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 1⁄3 innings.
“We did a lot of things well tonight,” said Astros manager AJ Hinch, who got 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings out of five relievers. “This is a really good team. So you have to earn everything you have against them and take opportunities when they present themselves. And I think our guys came into the game in a great mindset.”
Carlos Correa doubled in the second and scored on Josh Reddick’s single to make it 1-0. Altuve doubled in the third, went to third on Juan Soto’s throwing error on the play and scored on Michael Brantley’s infield single.
The Nationals, who left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third when Greinke struck out Asdrubal Cabrera with a 68-mph curveball, got an RBI triple from Victor Robles with one out in the fourth to make it 2-1, but Sanchez struck out and Trea Turner dribbled a comebacker.
Altuve doubled and scored on Brantley’s single in the fifth to make it 3-1. Adam Eaton led off the bottom of the inning with a single and went to third on Cabrera’s two-out double, but Josh James replaced Greinke and struck out Ryan Zimmerman.
Chirinos’ homer off the leftfield foul pole off Sanchez in the sixth made it 4-1.
“We played a good brand of baseball today,” said Astros righty Will Harris, who struck out two in 1 2⁄3 innings of relief. “We made really big pitches when we needed to, flying around the bases, kind of Astros baseball that we’ve all become accustomed to watching. A lot of energy in our dugout today. And we expect to carry that over to tomorrow.”