(Reuters) - With a 2-0 lead and six-time All-Star Zack Greinke putting up a strong showing in front of a fired-up, home turf Game 7 crowd, a second World Series title appeared more tantalizingly close than ever for the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
But it began to fall apart in the seventh inning, following a controversial call to pull Greinke, their high-profile trade deadline acquisition, after he gave up a solo homer and a walk against the Nationals in the top of the inning.
Washington went on to trample the Houston bullpen in an assertive offensive performance, ultimately winning 6-2.
“It’s a decision I’ll have to live with. I’ll think about it,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told reporters after the game, praising the “absolutely incredible” performance from Greinke. “And I don’t know what would have happened had I left him in.”
Hinch also defended the move and said he wasn’t sure he had pulled the 36-year-old righty too early.
“It was in the seventh inning and he was getting up into the 80s,” said Hinch. “We asked him to do more today than he had done, and pitched deeper into the game more than he had done in the entire month of October.”
Losing the first two World Series games at home, Houston’s season appeared all but over before the team rallied to win three games in a row in Washington, taking a 3-2 series lead back to Texas.
But scrappy Washington would not be denied, dishing the Astros’ final at-home humiliation after Houston failed to convert on their mid-series resurgence.
Hinch described the end-of-season outcome as bittersweet.
“It’s impossible to call a season in which you reach Game 7 of the World Series and have the lead going into the seventh inning as not good,” he said.
“It feels really bad. This is going to sting for a really long time, and it should.”
Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Schmollinger