Nationals

Astros coach: One missed strike call vs. Nationals ‘changed the entire World Series’

Nationals

It’s been almost nine months since the Nationals beat the Astros in the 2019 World Series to claim their first championship in franchise history, but Houston pitching coach Brent Strom is still holding a grudge.

Washington entered the seventh inning of Game 7 down 2-0, struggling to get any kind of action going on the basepaths against Astros starter Zack Greinke. Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon finally put his team on the board with a one-out solo homer, bringing up leftfielder Juan Soto for an at-bat that would prove pivotal.

“I still reflect back and I know people will laugh at me but on my screensaver on my computer is the 2-1 changeup that [Greinke] threw to Soto that was a strike that got called a ball in the seventh inning and I think changed the entire World Series,” Strom said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “Otherwise we’d be wearing World Series rings with [Gerrit] Cole coming in the eighth and ninth.

Soto watched the pitch all the way into catcher Robinson Chirinos’ glove and started his famous “Soto Shuffle” before home plate umpire Jim Wolf even called it a ball. Greinke missed the zone on the following pitch, handing Soto a free pass to first base and forcing manager A.J. Hinch to turn to reliever Will Harris to get Houston out of the inning.

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Of course, that didn’t happen. The very first batter Harris faced was second baseman Howie Kendrick, who took a breaking ball away and found a way to drive it off the rightfield foul pole for a go-ahead home run that gave Washington a lead it would never relinquish.

The Nationals went on to pad their lead to a 6-2 margin while Patrick Corbin came out of the bullpen and delivered three scoreless innings before allowing Daniel Hudson to finish Houston off. But it was that 2-1 changeup to Soto that Strom still holds on to.

“The pitch was there,” Strom said. “[It] was not called a strike—human error. Computer had it as 95 percent strike and I’m still pissed about it, to be quite frank.”

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