But Minute Maid Park proved to be a confounding kiss of death for the home club. After Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon homered off Greinke in the seventh, the game suddenly unraveled for Houston, just as it had the three other times the Astros played here in this World Series.
With the Nationals’ 6-2 win in Game 7, the juggernaut Astros, who won more games than any other team in baseball this season, made an unfortunate kind of history: Mark this down as the first seven-game series in Major League Baseball, NHL or NBA history in which the home team lost every game.
“It could almost make you feel like home-field advantage is a disadvantage, doesn’t it?” outfielder Josh Reddick said. “It’s kind of weird because that’s what you play for all year and win 107 games for. It’s just one of those weird, quirky things that doesn’t work out for you and one of those things where you go down in the history books but not in your favor.
“It’s just frustration and heartbreak.”
The Astros started ace Justin Verlander here twice only to see him take the loss both times. Gerrit Cole, who had 19 straight winning decisions before this World Series, took his first loss in five months in Game 1. And in Wednesday night’s Game 7, Greinke had allowed just one hit and two base runners through six innings, but some shakiness in the seventh caused Astros Manager A.J. Hinch to turn to his bullpen, arguably too early.
After Rendon’s home run to left field, Greinke walked Juan Soto, whom he had pitched to cautiously all game because of the 21-year-old’s big-hitting reputation. That brought him to just 80 pitches, but Hinch yanked him from the game in favor of reliever Will Harris, whom the Nationals already had seen in all but two games this series. He might have been overexposed, and Howie Kendrick turned the second pitch Harris threw into a two-run homer that lifted the Nationals to their first lead. Cole was available out of the bullpen, but Hinch never used him.
“I wasn’t going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead,” Hinch said. “He was going to help us win. He was available, and I felt it was a game that he was going to come in had we tied it or taken the lead. He was going to close the game in the ninth after I brought [closer Roberto] Osuna in, had we kept the lead.”
Asked why he pulled Greinke when he did, Hinch’s rationale was that Greinke hadn’t pitched that deep into a game all postseason, so he opted for caution — “an at-bat or two early rather than an at-bat or two late,” he said.
“It’s a decision I’ll have to live with,” Hinch added. “I’ll think about it. And I don’t know what would have happened had I left him in.”
But where the Astros missed most of their opportunities was at the plate. On a night when Nationals ace Max Scherzer looked shaky — he had been scratched from Game 5 with spasms in his neck and shoulder — Houston stranded 10 runners on base and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Considering the Astros had the benefit of playing under American League rules at Minute Maid Park, using AL rookie of the year favorite Yordan Alvarez as their designated hitter, that their offense went so cold here was odd and ultimately the difference in the series.
They scored just 11 runs in four games in Houston compared with 19 in three games at Nationals Park.
“We’re disappointed regardless of where we lose,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “But, I mean, yeah.”
Back in their clubhouse after watching the Nationals celebrate in their ballpark, Astros players sat at their stalls, many still in uniform. Some plopped down on the carpeted floor. They checked their cellphones or spoke to one another in hushed tones. They were in no rush to begin the agonizing process of cleaning out their belongings and closing the chapter on a great season that fell one win short.