By HAL McCOY
It was a matter of which team was going to blink first in Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night.
Not only did the Houston Astros blink, they seemed to close their eyes completely in the seventh inning, a six-run explosion by the Washington Nationals.
The result was a 12-3 Nationals victory in Minute Maid Park, giving them a two games to none lead, two wins on the road, with the Series moving to Washington for the next three games, if necessary.
It was a strange beginning with two of baseball’s best pitchers on the mound — Houston’s Justin Verlander and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.
Both pitchers gave up two runs in the first inning. The Nationals scored two on Anthony Rendon’s two-run double. The inning began with Verlander uncharacteristically walked leadoff batter Trea Turner on four pitches.
Springfield native Adam Eaton singled to left field and Rendon doubled high off the left field wall for a 2-0 lead.
The Astros quickly tied it on Jose Altuve’s double and a two-out home run by Alex Bregman to tie it, 2-2.
After that, it was as expected. Both Verlander and Strasburg found their comfort zones and matched five scoreless innings. Then came the seventh.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki led the seventh, a very sore and beat-up 36-year-old catcher. He blocked nine pitches thrown in the dirt by Max Scherzer in Game One.
But he reversed Verlander’s first pitch of the seventh, his 100th of the game, over the left center field wall for a 3-2 lead.
Suzuki is the first catcher to hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later in a World Series game was Steve Yeager. The Dayton native and Meadowdale High School product hit a go-ahead home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 in the seventh inning of Game 5.
When Verlander walked the next hitter, he was replaced by Ryan Pressly. He promptly walked Trea Turner.
Adam Eaton bunted the runners to second and third and Anthony Rendon flied to center for the second out. And it was still 3-2.
Houston had not issued an intentional walk all season, but with first base open and two outs, manager A.J. Hinch decided to purposely walked 20-year-old Juan Soto.
That, as it turned out, was fateful
Howie Kendrick chopped one between third and short and third baseman Alex Bregman couldn’t handle it — an infield hit that scored a run to make it 4-2.
That brought up Asdrubal Cabrera, whom Verlander struck out three times. But against Pressly he drove a two-run single to center and it was 6-2.
And it wasn’t over. After Pressly threw a wild pitch to put runners on third and second, Ryan Zimmerman hit a slow roller toward third. Bregman charged it, fielded it, and threw wildly past first base as two more runs scored to push it to 8-2.
Eaton, who has done about everything positive a player can do, launched a two-run home run in the eighth inning to put the Nationals in double figures, 10-2.
Eaton sprinted around the bases as if carrying the baton in an Olympics relay race. He was timed in 19.42 seconds.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled home another run in the eighth with two outs, his third RBI. The Nationals scored eight of their 12 runs with two outs.
Strasburg hung around for six innings and gave up two runs, seven hits, walked one and struck out seven. He needed 114 pitches to get that far, but was able to turn a six-run lead over to the bullpen.
The loss went to Verlander and he, amazingly, is 0-and-5 in his major league starts.