WASHINGTON (AFP) — An explosive Jose Altuve hitting performance powered Houston back into World Series contention on Friday as the Astros beat Washington 4-1 to snap the Nationals’ eight-game winning streak.
Altuve smacked two doubles and scored twice while Robinson Chirinos blasted a solo home run, cutting the Nationals lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.
Games four and five take place in the US capital on Saturday and Sunday.
Only three teams in history have won the World Series after dropping the first two games at home as Houston did, the most recent being the 1996 New York Yankees.
No team has recovered from an 0-3 hole to win the title.
“A win for us was huge tonight to prove this series is not over,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
“Coming to a new venue, certainly an unbelievable environment, getting back in the series, putting a little bit of momentum in our clubhouse and our dugout, will go a long way.”
Hinch praised Altuve’s batting efforts that produced pivotal runs for the Astros.
“Jose has been fantastic for us,” he said. “Tonight he was a catalyst for us. Jose is the heart and soul of what we do.”
Nationals manager Dave Martinez also saw Altuve as the critical hitter in the outcome.
“He’s one of the best. I love the way he plays the game,” Martinez said.
“We gave him good pitches. That’s probably one of the best hitters in the game. He just made hits.”
The loss ended an eight-game Nationals win streak, matching the longest one-year playoff run in MLB history.
Washington had outscored foes 56-19 in the span, part of an 18-2 overall run since September 23.
The Astros won a Major League Baseball-best 107 games but have been tested by an upstart club that began the season 19-31 and battled into the last week of the season just to reach the playoffs.
A vocal sellout crowd of 43,867 watched the first World Series game played in Washington since 1933, nine years after the original Senators won the city’s only crown, a feat recalled in black and white highlights on the stadium videoscreen.
“The fans were awesome,” Martinez said. “It was electric. The boys in the dugout were fired up. Bring it again tomorrow.”
Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki suffered a right hip flexor injury and his status was uncertain for game four.
The Nationals, baseball’s best at scoring with two outs, stranded 12 runners and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“Little bit aggressive outside the strike zone,” Martinez said. “(Astros starter Zack) Greinke got out of some jams and we couldn’t capitalize.”
Houston’s George Springer opened with an infield single but centerfielder Victor Robles robbed Altuve of an extra-base hit with an amazing catch, prompting a frustrated Altuve to toss an object against the dugout wall, the moment summing up the series.
Then things started going Houston’s way.
The Astros seized a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Carlos Correa doubled to the left-field wall and scored on Josh Reddick’s bloop single to left.
In the third, Altuve doubled down the left-field line, took third base on a fielding error by 21st-birthday celebrant Juan Soto and scored on Michael Brantley’s single for a 2-0 Astros lead.
“I saw some good at-bats. I just liked the competitiveness of our at-bats,” Hinch said. “We were kind of pretty focused on handing the baton to the next guy. We’re at our best when we do that.”
Washington scored in the fourth when Ryan Zimmerman walked and came home on Robles’s triple down the left-field line.
Safely on third base, the Dominican flapped his hands in a shark jaws motion to spark the crowd and team with what has become a Nats talisman move, although Robles was stranded after two failed bunts produced outs.
Houston answered in the fifth when Altuve doubled and scored on a Brantley single for a 3-1 Astros edge, Altuve becoming the first second baseman since 1910 to hit two doubles and score twice in a World Series game.
Chirinos homered in the sixth for the final run.
In the sixth, Nationals fans began slapping hands to the “Baby Shark” children’s song when Gerardo Parra, who uses the music for his walk to the plate, entered.
But the pinch-hitter struck out and the Nats stranded two more runners, another in the eighth and another in the ninth.