Astros seek answers as Nationals lead World Series

Washington (AFP) –


Houston Astros players met among themselves to seek solutions before Friday's must-win third game of the World Series against a Washington Nationals team poised to seize a stranglehold on the Major League Baseball title.

The Nationals swept two games in Houston to take command of the best-of-seven series and come home for the first World Series games in the US capital since 1933.

"I know it's going to be exciting here," said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. "They waited for a long time for this opportunity. They are going to be loud.

"It has been unbelievable. It really has. It has been overwhelming. The fans have bought in and it has been great. This place gets really loud and it's electric. So I know the boys are excited to play."

Meanwhile, the Astros' players-only gathering sought answers to how a hard-hitting team that led baseball in regular-season wins has been stifled by the Nationals.

"We're going to come out tomorrow and try to apply pressure. When we play our best baseball we apply pressure," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said.

"We've just got to do a better job. It takes one day to stop the bleeding. You play good one game, the bleeding stops. Panic stops. You start playing the way you want.

"We were outplayed for two straight games. We stop the bleeding tomorrow it's going to be a lot of fun the rest of the series," Bregman added. "We can't focus on anything else. Whatever happened before, it's over with. All we've got to do is win game three."

Only three teams in World Series history have overcome two home losses at the start to capture the crown, the most recent the 1996 New York Yankees. But 17 of the last 18 teams in a 2-0 hole lost the World Series.

- No gloom and doom -

"Yes, it's an uphill battle, but it's not impossible, not when you have the best record in baseball over the course of 162 games," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

"We're still optimistic. Our club has a lot of confidence and we have a lot of resilience.

"There's no gloom and doom with us. We've got to try to do better. We've got an opportunity to do it in game three and absolutely flip any sort of perceived momentum in our direction."

Hinch sees the players-only meeting as "players picking up players. Guys are trying to fight for the season. They've won two and a lot of questions are coming our way.

"I understand that everybody wants the pressure put on us. That's great. We've responded great to pressure. We're ready to play.

"Their view of the finish line is a little closer than ours. But I wonder what everybody will feel like if we can win game three? And all of a sudden it flips a little bit."

Martinez has taken steps to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We talked about complacency. I don't think our guys would ever do that, but we said, 'Hey, we've still got a lot of baseball left,'" Martinez said.

"We don't try to get ahead of ourselves. These guys need to understand the focus on the here and now and do the little things. That's what's got us here."

- No DH in Washington -

What got the Astros this far was solid pitching and timely hitting, but their star hurlers have struggled and the batters have stranded 20 base runners in two games.

It won't get any easier on Houston's lineup without the designated hitter being used in the National League ballpark. That benches Yordan Alvarez unless he plays the outfield.

"We need as much offense as we can get, certainly with runners in scoring position," Hinch said. "There's the other side of the ball, as well. I'll have to make that decision."

US President Donald Trump says he would attend a fifth game on Sunday if the Astros can avoid a sweep.

"He's the president of this country. If he wants to come to the game, it's something that he wants to do. Of course everybody has to respect that situation," Nats game three pitcher Anibal Sanchez said.

"I don't want to attack him like I got something against. I'm from Venezuela. I'm out of this country, but then I respect all those situations. He's the president and if he want to come, why no?"