Nationals force World Series Game 7

It’s been an unusual road to Game 7 of the World Series for Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

Seizing the October spotlight he missed out on as a youngster, Strasburg pitched another postseason gem into the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2 to tie this Fall Classic at 3-3.

Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead homer, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Yep, these wild-card Nationals have matched the heavily favored Astros swing for swing, hit for hit – even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Now, it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night to resolve the only Series in which the visiting team won the first six.

”It’s weird, really. You can’t explain it,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. The Nationals will try their ultimate comeback in a year when they were written off time after time, hoping for the first title in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the Montreal Expos and the first for Washington since the Senators in 1924.

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Visiting teams have won three straight Game 7s in the Series since the Cardinals defeated Texas at home in 2011.

”I don’t think there’s a person in the building that would have assumed that all road teams were going to win,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. ”We’ve just got to make sure that last one is not the same.”

Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start – the Nats were given just a 1.6% option to win the Series on May 23 – to finish 93-69. They rallied from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against Milwaukee in the NL wild-card game, a two-games-to-one deficit vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and a 2-1, fifth-inning deficit in Game 6 vs. the Astros.

Outscored 19-3 at Nationals Park while going 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position, the Nationals got the strong outing they needed from Strasburg, who allowed his only runs in the first inning, struck out seven and walked two while throwing 104 pitches. ”It was a mental grind out there, especially after the first,” Strasburg said. ”Just got to keep fighting.”

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