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Stephen Strasburg shines, Nationals pick up an electrifying win over Astros to force Game 7 in World Series

Washington Nationals' Juan Soto flips his bat as

Washington Nationals' Juan Soto flips his bat as he is congratulated by first base coach Tim Bogar after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of Game 6 against the Houston Astros Tuesday in Houston. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

HOUSTON — A World Series largely devoid of drama the first five games delivered it in spades in Game 6.

One can only imagine what’s on tap for Game 7.

The Nationals, facing elimination, got a brilliant 8 1/3-inning performance from Stephen Strasburg and home runs from Adam Eaton, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon in a 7-2 victory Tuesday night over the Astros in front of 43,384 at Minute Maid Park.

“We're going to Game 7,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who became the first manager ejected from a World Series game since the Braves’ Bobby Cox in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series against the Yankees. “It's a lot of fun. Let's come back tomorrow and do it again.”

Martinez has to like his chances.

The home team has yet to win a game in this series, which concludes here Wednesday night.

More drama?

Nationals ace righthander Max Scherzer, scratched from his start Sunday night in Game 5 because of severe back spasms that wouldn’t allow him to dress himself when he woke up that morning, will start Wednesday night for the Nationals. Zack Greinke goes for the Astros, who won their first World Series title two years ago against the Dodgers with a Game 7 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Strasburg, 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four previous starts this postseason, allowed two runs, all in the first inning when he said he was tipping his pitches — something coaches alerted him to — and five hits. The righthander, who can opt out of his contract after the season, struck out seven and walked two.

“I saw an incredible pitcher, he was really good,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Strasburg. “He has an uncanny ability to slow the game down when he's under any duress (but) we didn't put a lot of stress on him. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s got a slow heartbeat out there.”

Still, the game might most be remembered for a bizarre sequence in the top of the seventh inning.

The Nationals, because of solo homers off Justin Verlander by Adam Eaton and Juan Soto in the fifth, took a 3-2 lead into the inning. Yan Gomes led off with a single against Brad Peacock and Trea Turner followed with a trickler in front of the plate.

The runner reached the base at the same time as the throw from Peacock — Turner knocked first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s glove off as he arrived at the bag — and plate umpire Sam Holbrook called Turner out for interference. Turner was ruled out for not running in the three-foot wide running lane in foul ground as the rules dictate.

“It was the right call,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, who then read the corresponding passage from the rule book. “If he had been running in the 45-foot (lane), he'd have been coming from a different angle and the first baseman may have had an easier chance catching the ball.”

An argument ensued and Holbrook, along with crew chief Gary Cederstrom, at the behest of Martinez who demanded a “rules check” — runner’s interference is not subject to review — ended up getting on the headsets and conferring with replay central in New York.

 After a nearly five-minute delay, new Astros pitcher Will Harris retired Eaton but he grooved a 1-and-0 pitch to Rendon, a free agent after the season who continued to make himself some money this postseason. The third baseman crushed it for a two-run homer that made it 5-2 and his two-run double in the ninth made it 7-2.

After the Nationals were retired in the seventh, Martinez, still incensed over the Turner call at first, got into a heated argument with Holbrook and Cederstrom and eventually was ejected by Holbrook. The usually mild-mannered Martinez, who protested the game and then withdrew the protest, had to be restrained from going after Holbrook.

Martinez declined to get into specifics afterward, saying only: “This is not about me or the umpires. This is about the Washington Nationals and those guys in the clubhouse coming to Game 6 and playing lights out.”

Hinch did not blame the delay but was not happy about it.

“It's not a reviewable call,” Hinch said. “I'm as confused as everybody is, because there was no reason to have the delay, from my seat."

Torre, who said there were technical issues reaching the umpires in New York, did not disagree.

“It should never be that long,” Torre said. “That's unfortunate. And certainly we have to take ownership of that. But it shouldn't have been that long.”

Some night.

One more to go. 

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