Seven years ago, in front of a handful of fans and in a stadium that felt cavernous and quiet rather than cacophonous and intimidating, the Astros and Nationals were deadlocked in extra innings. Washington was in the infancy of their contending window, while the Astros were in the process of a deliberate tank job. They were both going in different directions and the moment that was about to go down in the 11th inning of that game on Aug. 6, 2012, would be a sign of things to come for both teams.
For the Nationals, they were on their way to their first divisional title since arriving in Washington. The Astros were years away from even coming close to an opportunity like that. So with Kurt Suzuki at the plate and the game tied at four, he laid down a bunt with nobody out and a runner on first. The Astros attempted to field that bunt and it was so bad that Grant Brisbee suggested back then that you should have watched the highlights with the Benny Hill music playing in the background.
The runner from first came around to score, the Nationals went on to win the game and that moment became immortalized in time. Back in 2017, it was the “rock bottom” moment that everyone could remember and laughed about as the Astros were having a World Series parade. Here in 2019, it was a completely different story.
Seven years after a Suzuki at-bat touched off a meltdown at Minute Maid Park, he returned to the same batter’s box. Now the Nats and Astros were doing battle in a tie game in the World Series. The result of the game was about to be the same, and another defensive calamity was on the way.
Instead of a bunt, Suzuki hit a leadoff home run. Justin Verlander had settled in nicely after a rocky start to the game, but this marked the beginning of the end for him. Three walks and two outs later, Ryan Pressly was on the mound and set to take on Howie Kendrick. The last of those three walks was Houston’s first intentional walk of the entire 2019 campaign and A.J. Hinch’s move appeared to pay off as Kendrick grounded it to Alex Bregman. Ground ball, throw it to first, inning over, right?
Well, that’s not what happened. Bregman booted it, everybody was safe, another run scored and Kendrick was somehow credited with a hit as the inning continued. It transformed into a nightmare after Asdrubal Cabrera looped a hit into center field to bring in two runs and now the Nationals had a crooked number on the scoreboard. The final nail in the coffin came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a weak grounder that forced Bregman to charge it and send a wayward throw to first. Two more runs scored, it was 8-2 for the Nats and the game was basically over at that point.
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Still, it only got worse from there for the Astros. Washington poured on four more runs and ended up turning the game into an absolute rout. For the second night in a row, Houston found themselves wondering how it came to this, as the Nationals managed to take both games that Gerrit Cole and Verlander started. And that awful seventh inning in Game 2 of the 2019 World Series brought back memories of that ugly night in August 2012. The only constants were the team matchups and Suzuki was there for the Nationals when it all started.
Instead of the place being virtually empty, all of those fans at Minute Maid Park had to watch Kendrick and Zimmerman both inexplicably record infield singles. They had to watch Bregman have one of the most disastrous defensive innings of his career. They even had to witness a wild pitch from Pressly help contribute to the chaos — and it all conspired to turn a tight World Series game into a laugh riot for the road team.
The nightmare from 2012 was already a huge moment in Houston’s arc from terrible tankers to championship contenders. The only way that it could have been topped was for the sequel to happen when it did and how it did. If the Nationals go on to win this series, then this will turn out to be another defining moment and this one was on a much larger and far more prestigious stage than that wacky night from seven years ago.