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The Astros are too good to roll over in the World Series

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2019 World Series Game 3 - Houston Astros v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2019 World Series has yet to see a home team win a game. On a night Washington D.C. was aching to explode in euphoria in the city’s first Fall Classic game in 86 years, that key moment never came.

The Astros, reeling after losing the first two games of the series at home, got what they needed by finally breaking through against a Nationals starting pitcher. Now we have a series that could last a while.

We should have expected such length, after all good things come to those who wait. Each Game 3 starter — Anibal Sanchez and Zack Greinke — recorded three strikeouts on pitches under 78 mph, including a beautiful 67.8 mph curve by Greinke to nab Asdrubl Cabrera.

The fans who sat through the first World Series game in Washington D.C. since 1933 also exercised immense patience, the kind that comes with a nine-inning game that needed 163 minutes to finish, the second straight game this series that lasted over four hours.

But it was the Astros’ patience that ultimately paid off on Friday.

In Game 1 the Astros forced Max Scherzer out of the game after just five innings by battling him to the tune of 112 pitches, his most pitches thrown through five innings of a game since 2012. This was before he started racking up the Cy Young Awards.

Stephen Strasburg faced a similar fate, needing to leave after six innings in Game 2 after throwing 114 pitches, his third-highest total this season. That game was tied when Strasburg left, only to have the Nationals immediately hang a six-spot in the Astros’ worst inning in recent memory.

All Houston had to show for getting the two Nationals aces out early was two losses, and two runs off them in each game. Relatively speaking, that was much better than everyone else did off Scherzer and Strasburg this October, with the duo combining for a 2.04 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 53 innings.

“We worked those first two guys pretty hard and they continued to go out there and answer the challenge,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before Game 3. “In the first couple of games things have gone about as perfectly for them as it can and their players have stepped up and answered the challenge, whether it’s a couple of guys that maybe didn’t expect to pitch or their starters having to endure a little bit of pressure.”

The Astros desperately needed results, and on Friday they got them.

While Sanchez didn’t rack up the high pitch counts of his series predecessors, throwing 93 pitches while lasting into the sixth inning, the Astros were able to nick him all night, scoring single runs in four different innings. It was just the second time in 10 career postseason starts Sanchez allowed four earned runs, a big reason why even with the loss on Friday his lifetime postseason ERA is just 2.93.

The Nationals swapped roles with the Astros in Game 3, forcing an exit by Greinke in the fifth inning by running up his pitch count, but could manage just one run. Washington left runners on base in every inning but one, teasing a raucous Nationals Park crowd seeing their first World Series game.

With the Nationals just two games away from their first championship, their fans smelled blood and cheered every potential scoring opportunity with fervor. They were waiting all night for the one big hit that would have set off a city, but it never came.

Washington was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, while the Astros were 4-for-10, a reversal of the games in Houston.

“The fans were awesome. I mean, it was electric. The boys in the dugout, they were fired up, they were,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I’ll relay a message to the fans: Bring it again tomorrow. It was great. I loved it.”

This is just the 10th World Series to begin with road wins in each of the first three games, and the first in 23 years. We’re bound to get a home win at some point in this Fall Classic. We just have to be patient.