For the first time since Game 4 of the National League Division Series, the Washington Nationals will take the field on Saturday coming off a loss. The Houston Astros snapped Washington’s eight-game postseason winning streak and climbed back into the World Series with a 4-1 victory in Game 3 on Friday night.
It was more of a gritty win than a pretty win as Houston's lineup scratched out four runs while the pitching staff tiptoed out of danger in multiple innings. More of the same might be required on Saturday as Houston rolls with rookie starter Jose Urquidy in what will likely amount to another heavy usage game for the Astros’ bullpen.
How Game 4 plays out could also hinge on which version of Patrick Corbin shows up. The Nationals’ prized offseason acquisition will make the start after throwing one scoreless inning of relief in Game 1. However, not all of his postseason outings have gone so smoothly.
Overall, Corbin has allowed 12 runs in 14.1 October innings. That includes a six-run relief outing in the NLDS. Even if we discount that outing, Corbin’s command has been an issue dating back to a Sept. 17 regular season start in St. Louis. Since then, Corbin has walked 20 batters in 30.1 innings. It’s tough to be consistent walking that many batters.
Despite those struggles and his awkward usage as a reliever, it doesn’t sound like we should expect any notable adjustments from the veteran left-hander in Game 4.
“These are games I want to pitch in,” Corbin said before Game 3 on Friday. “I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and help us win a ball game. This is what you prepare for all offseason, to pitch in these games and just to have the opportunity to go out there, give it my best.”
As for the added pressure of pitching in the World Series?
“I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to try to keep everything the same. I'm sure I'll be excited. But I'm really looking forward to it.”
A win for Washington would put them back in firm control of the series. A loss would push the advantage back to Houston with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander waiting to avenge their losses in Game 1 and 2. That sets up Game 4 as the pivotal game in this series
Game 4 lineups
What to watch for: Astros bullpen usage
Manager A.J. Hinch used five relievers to record 13 outs in Game 3. Now he’ll almost certainly be forced to go deep into his bullpen again with rookie Jose Urquidy starting Game 4.
The Astros went with a full-on bullpen game in Game 6 of the ALCS and were largely successful, limiting the New York Yankees’ powerful offense to four runs. Hinch used seven relievers in that pennant-clinching win.
This will require a more calculated approach given the bullpen’s workload in Game 3 and with Game 5 looming on Sunday. Hinch needs another win, but burning his bullpen in Game 4 could have a lingering effect.
Game 4 pageantry
• The U.S. Army Brass Quintet will perform the National Anthem prior to Game Four.
• Saturday’s ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by Janyia Freeman, a Nationals Youth Baseball Academy scholar-athlete.
• Charlie Willis, 95, will announce “Play Ball!” Willis has attended baseball games in Washington D.C. since 1932 and even once witnessed a Babe Ruth home run live.
Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki came out of Game 3 banged up. According to manager Dave Martinez, Suzuki is dealing with a hip flexor.
“His strength was good but we'll see. I don't know if he's going to get an MRI. But we'll see how he feels (Saturday),” Martinez said after Game 3.
Yan Gomes will handle catching duties for Washington on Saturday. Suzuki will remain on the roster but his availability for Game 4 is uncertain.
Quote of the Day
“I'm living the dream. I know this is a big opportunity for me.” — Astros’ pitcher Jose Urquidy on getting the call to start Game 4.
Where to Watch
Game 4 starts at 8:07 p.m. ET from Nationals Park in Washington D.C. TV coverage is on FOX.
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