WASHINGTON — There are certain tandems whom opponents fully expect to be significant obstacles to beating the Astros.
Wait, what? Urquidy-Chirinos?
Indeed, it was that most unlikely of duos who led the way Saturday night in Game 4 of a World Series that has experienced a dramatic shift in momentum the last two nights.
Behind five scoreless innings from rookie Jose Urquidy and a two-run homer by Robinson Chirinos — not to mention a grand slam by Alex Bregman that broke open the game — the Astros tied the 115th World Series at 2-2 with an 8-1 win over the Nationals in front of 43,889 at Nationals Park, most of whom had little to cheer about.
Bregman, who is one of the Astros’ most dangerous hitters but has struggled at times this October, made it 8-1 in the seventh and finished off a five-RBI night. He and Michael Brantley had three hits each and Chirinos, Jose Altuve and Jake Marisnick added two each as the Astros outhit the Nationals 13-4.
“Yes, absolutely,” Altuve said of a pervading feeling that the Astros suddenly are in the driver’s seat after dropping the first two games at home. “Like I said [before Game 3], it only takes one game for us to get going. That’s what’s going to happen.”
The road team has won each of the first four games in the series, which continues Sunday night with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer facing the Astros’ Gerrit Cole in Game 5.
The last team to win a World Series after losing the first two games was the 1996 Yankees against the Braves. (The road team won the first five games in that series.)
The Nationals, who beat Cole and Justin Verlander in Houston in the first two games, have seen their bats go to sleep at home. After going 7-for-21 with runners in scoring position in Games 1 and 2, they went 0-for-10 in Game 3 and 1-for-9 in Game 4. Houston, which has struggled with RISP for most of the postseason, is 9-for-23 the last two games.
“We haven’t hit the last couple of days, but I’ve got confidence we’ll bounce back and be ready to play tomorrow,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s baseball. And it’s the World Series. I just told the boys, ‘Hey, we’re in the World Series. We’re going to play Game 5, tied 2-2. Who would have thought that in the beginning?’ So here we are. Let’s forget about it. Can’t do nothing about the last two games.”
Urquidy was brilliant, allowing two hits and no walks in an efficient 67-pitch outing. “He controlled the game,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said after watching him badly outpitch the more heralded Patrick Corbin.
The righthander made his major-league debut on July 2 and posted a 5.87 ERA in five July outings but seemed to find something after being recalled in September, producing a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings in four games.
“Urquidy, wow, what a night,” said Altuve, now 23-for-63 this postseason, including 8-for-20 in the World Series. “Obviously, we needed that from him. I was playing behind him. He was unhittable.”
Corbin, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief in Game 1 but made his first start since NLCS Game 4 against the Cardinals on Oct. 15, was not sharp, allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings.
After leadoff man George Springer struck out looking against Corbin, four straight hits followed. Singles by Altuve, Brantley and Bregman produced a run and Yuli Gurriel’s infield single made it 2-0. Chirinos’ two-run homer in the fourth gave the Astros a 4-0 lead.
“This team, even after we lost the second game, we never doubted ourselves,” said Chirinos, who has five hits this postseason, three of them homers. “We were confident.”
And now they’re tied.