In the 1976 film Freaky Friday, a mother and daughter learn to forgive one another after a Friday the 13th spell forces the two to switch bodies for a day and experience the other’s life. The lesson at the end is that one of the best ways to resolve conflicts is by seeing the world through another person’s perspective. Unfortunately, this case of swapped identity doesn’t always result in a didactic conclusion, and instead leads to a loss in the World Series without a ton of takeaways, as the Nationals found out in their 4-1 loss to the Astros on Friday.
Game 3's Freaky Friday-like switch mostly happened in the RISP column. Houston, a team that came into the postseason with one of the best offenses in MLB history, had spent pretty much the entirety of this series coming up empty whenever a runner was on second or third—it’d probably be the organization’s biggest storyline were it not for management making a beeline towards peak shittiness. This postseason, the Astros were 17-for-97 with RISP, and 3-for-17 through Games 1 and 2. But that changed on Friday, with the bats finally waking up to go 4-of-8 in Game 3. The way catcher Robert Chirinos explains things, it sounds like the team has finally adjusted to theses dejuiced baseballs.
“I feel like in the postseason, we’re trying too much,” said Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, who homered in the sixth. “Trying to be a hero. That’s something we talked about on the plane also last night. We’re like, ‘Let’s have a good approach, good at-bats as a team and don’t try to do too much. Just keep the line moving. Don’t swing for a fence. Just go the other way and make sure we’re seeing the ball and swinging at strikes.’ And I feel like we did that tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Nationals, who had just poured on an avalanche of runs against two of baseball’s best pitchers this season, ended up stranding a dozen runners, and going 0-for-10 with RISP. Still, it’s not like Washington is now forced to rethink their entire approach for this series. Sure, the offense was a putrid mess, but the lack of production came on a night that was a statistical anomaly for Astros pitcher Zack Greinke. The 36-year-old, who was working with a 6.43 ERA over 14 innings in three starts this October, allowed just one run and struck out six through his 4.2 innings of play.
Even on defense, the statistical anomalies continued, and any actual mistakes were marginal at worst. Houston’s first run came from a soft blooper from Josh Reddick, who had been batting .111 in the postseason up to that point. When the Astros doubled their lead one inning later, it happened because of a misplayed hopper that resulted in an infield single for Michael Brantley and allowed Jose Altuve to easily score from third—the second baseman had gotten that far because Juan Soto had misplayed a ball in the outfield.
This isn’t to say that the Nationals can easily brush this loss off. They still have to face the consequences of their actions, or lack thereof in this case. The defeat not only gives the Astros some breathing room for a bullpen day in Game 4, and strikes fear into the heart of every superstitious fan of D.C. sports that an impending collapse is coming, it also brings the potential for an annoying media circus in the clubhouse because of a very special guest.
Sadly, our Big Wet President will not be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday—though, as we’ve argued before, it would be the perfect thing to heal our divided nation—but his presence alone probably means at least one or two members of the home team will have to answer something about him. It’ll be up to Washington to pick up a win in Games 4 and 5 to make sure that that’s the only tough question players will have to answer this weekend.