Astros are who they thought they were, ensure another World Series start for Gerrit Cole

WASHINGTON — The Houston Astros, embarrassed and scorned this World Series, and not just by the behavior of their front office, went out Friday to remind everyone that this is still an elite baseball team.

They played the kind of game that helped them win 107 in the regular season , becoming the first team to beat the Washington Nationals in nearly three weeks, winning 4-1 to breathe new life into the World Series.

The Astros still trail 2 games to 1 in the Series, but their victory assured that co-ace Gerrit Cole will be pitching at least one more time.

And the Nats finally looked human. They lost their first game since Oct. 6, ending an eight-game winning streak, tied for the longest in postseason history.

The Nats, 18-3 since Sept. 23, had been on such a roll that it jarred their senses just trailing in the game. When the Astros jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Josh Reddick’s run-scoring single in the second inning – which held the rest of the game – it marked the first time since Oct. 9 they trailed longer than three innings in a game.

Astros' Robinson Chirinos celebrates after his home run in the sixth inning.

The Nats, of course, still are sitting pretty, but the Astros suddenly have life, after shrugging off any notion the past two days this was going to be a short series.

“There's no gloom and doom with us,’’ Astros outfielder George Springer said before the game. “To be around our club is to know that our club has a lot of confidence and we have a lot of resilience." 

If you didn’t know any better Friday, you’d have sworn the team teams switched uniforms, or at least identities, with the Astros getting all of the key hits and making the big pitches while the Nats were the ones failing in the clutch and making blunders in the field.

The Astros entered the game hitting just .175 with runners in scoring position, but went 4-for-10, despite MVP candidate Alex Bregman’s pronounced struggles (4-31 since the AL Division Series). The Nats, who hit .355 during their eight-game winning streak, were hitless in 10 at-bats in Game 3.

The Astros relievers were the unsung heroes, pitching 4 ⅓ innings, with Roberto Osuna getting the save.

Osuna was heavily booed when he entered the game, with everyone being reminded last week about his domestic violence charge a year ago when Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman taunted female reporters after their pennant-clinching game. The incident created a firestorm, and Taubman was fired on Thursday.

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“We’re not going to spend the whole World Series without hitting with runners (in scoring position),’’ Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said before the game.

They're still not in the best of shape – but they’re at least alive.  If they go down, the Nats will have to beat their co-ace for a second time. Cole will pitch in Game 5 on Sunday, and they’ll open with rookie Jose Urquidy in a bullpen game Saturday in Game 4.

But, in the words of Bregman, they needed “to stop the bleeding,’’ and they did just that with a tourniquet trying to save their season.

“I think it takes one day to stop the bleeding,’’ Bregman said. “You play good one game, the bleeding stops. Panic stops. You start playing the way you want to play.”

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