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Reports — Nats, Holland reach minor-league deal

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Right-handed reliever Greg Holland and the Washington Nationals have reached an agreement on a minor league contract, according to multiple reports Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Holland was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. He was 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA and 17 saves in 22 chances this season.

Holland was 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 24 games for the Nationals last season.

Washington’s bullpen has struggled throughout this year. Its 6.05 ERA is the worst in the National League.

MLB Network first reported the Nationals’ agreement with Holland.

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How the Nationals pieced together their Game 1 win over the Astros

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HOUSTON — Max Scherzer threw 112 pitches in five innings. The only inning he threw fewer than 20 was his final one. Tanner Rainey came out of the bullpen, served up a home run and walked two batters while recording just one out. Daniel Hudson got four outs, but gave up three hits and a run.

Sounds like a good way to lose Game 1 of the World Series.

But the Washington Nationals did not lose Game 1 of the World Series. They beat the Houston Astros 5-4 Tuesday night. They managed to cobble together 27 outs, they beat the invincible Gerrit Cole and they are now undefeated all time in the World Series.

Can they win three more games like this? Probably not. They need their starters to go deeper into the game. Heck, the Nationals are carrying just 11 pitchers, two of them haven’t even pitched in the postseason and another has recorded just one out. The Astros left 11 runners on base, went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and missed a game-tying home run by a foot or two.

Sometimes you win a game, sometimes you survive a game.

“This is just a team win,” Scherzer said. “When you look at this, there is not one guy that won this game. It was a collection of everybody. Up and down the lineup, in the bullpen, what can you say? The reason we won tonight was because of everybody in this clubhouse.”

Here’s what kind of a sweat it was for Scherzer. Only once before in his career had he pitched five or fewer innings and thrown more than 112 pitches — a start against the Yankees in April 2012 when he walked seven batters in 4⅔ innings and threw 119 pitches.

“It was crazy,” he said. “Everything’s on the line. That lineup is great. They absolutely grinded me, never let me get in rhythm. I was having to make pitches out of the stretch from the first inning on. For me, I just stayed with Zuk [catcher Kurt Suzuki]. Zuk called some big-time pitches for me tonight.”

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Kurt Suzuki credits strong performances by Juan Soto and Max Scherzer as the Nationals steal game 1 in Houston.

Scherzer walked George Springer on seven pitches leading off the Houston first, leaving a 3-2 slider up in the zone. The Astros would score two runs in the inning to grab the quick lead. Scherzer would go to a 3-2 count on nine of the 23 batters he faced. This was not vintage, efficient Max Scherzer, not the pitcher who mowed through the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series with one hit in seven innings.

Scherzer’s mounting pitch count — 48 through two innings, 96 through four — meant Dave Martinez had to alter the script that managers attempt to plot out before the game. It meant using Patrick Corbin — his probable Game 3 starter — in the sixth inning. Then Rainey, the hard-throwing but erratic right-hander, in the seventh, with his two reliable relievers, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, after that.

“Max … kudos to him. He gave us everything he had today,” Martinez said. “Those guys are good and they don’t chase. They’re good hitters, so he gave us everything we had and as the game was rolling along and I started watching Max’s pitch count, there was going to be an inning that we needed to use Corbin.”

Corbin did his job, striking out two in a 21-pitch inning. Martinez could have — should have? — brought Corbin back for the seventh. Win this game and worry about Games 3 and 4 later. Instead, he gave the seventh to Rainey, who possesses a 100 mph heater, but doesn’t always know where it’s going. He walked 38 batters in 48⅓ innings in the regular season, but also struck out 74. He had won his manager’s trust with two scoreless outings against the Cardinals. Such is the life of the hot hand in October.

Springer greeted Rainey with a monster 428-foot home run to left-center, turning on a 99 mph heater. Rainey struck out Jose Altuve, but walked Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman. Hudson would get out of the inning, striking out Yordan Alvarez on a 96 mph fastball with the bases loaded — maybe the biggest out of the game. Hudson gave up a run in the eighth on Springer’s RBI double off the wall that just missed tying the game, but Doolittle got the final out of that inning and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

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What Juan Soto, Nats rocking Gerrit Cole means for this World Series

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HOUSTON — With Max Scherzer facing Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of the World Series, we had grand visions of an epic pitchers’ duel between the three-time Cy Young winner and the hottest pitcher on the planet.

We didn’t get that. We got something better: a reminder that as much as we try to script what will happen in a baseball game, you can never predict what will happen in a baseball game.

The Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros 5-4 in an action-packed thriller as the two starters combined to allow seven runs and 13 hits over their 12 innings. Juan Soto and George Springer performed heroic feats of strength, and the Nationals’ bullpen huffed and puffed to the end but managed to prevent Washington’s lead from being blown, immediately flipping the script in a World Series in which the Astros entered as the biggest betting favorites since 2007.

This game will be remembered for the 20-year-old super sophomore Soto twice beating Cole in the matchup of a phenom of phenoms against an ace of aces. He crushed a 417-foot home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning, then lined a two-run double with two outs — opposite field again — off the wall below the Crawford boxes in the fifth inning. The first blow tied the score at 2, the second one capped a three-run rally to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.

The unbeatable Cole, riding a streak of 19 consecutive winning decisions stretching back to May — the Astros hadn’t lost a game started by Cole since July 12 — proved beatable after all. Soto, who had hit .188 with seven strikeouts in the Nationals’ sweep in the NLCS, proved why he’s too good to go into any extended slump. Before the game, Astros manager A.J. Hinch discussed facing the Nationals’ lineup with a 12-man pitching staff of all right-handed pitchers. “Soto is going to be a big part of this series,” Hinch said. That’s not particularly prescient or anything like that — Soto, after all, is the club’s cleanup hitter — but there is little doubt that the Nationals’ lineup needs Soto to produce. They beat the Cardinals without him doing much, but they’re unlikely to beat the Astros if he hits .188 again.

Soto led off the fourth and took a slider for a ball and then jumped on a 96-mph fastball up in the zone, hitting the ball into an area of Minute Maid Park where few lefties not named Yordan Alvarez have gone this season. He became the fourth-youngest player to hit a World Series home run:

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Astros’ George Springer sets record with HR in 5th straight World Series game

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HOUSTON — Houston Astros outfielder George Springer set a record when he homered in his fifth consecutive World Series game on Tuesday night, a seventh-inning blast off Washington Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey that sailed 428 feet to left-center field.

Springer had homered in the final four games of the 2017 World Series for the Astros, winning MVP honors in the process; he batted .379 with five home runs as the Astros won in seven games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had shared the record of four consecutive games with Lou Gehrig (who did it over the 1928 and 1932 World Series) and Reggie Jackson (who did it over 1977 and 1978 Series).

Springer’s home runs:

Game 4, 2017: Sixth inning off Dodgers’ Alex Wood (nobody on)

Game 5, 2017: Seventh inning off Dodgers’ Brandon Morrow (nobody on)

Game 6, 2017: Third inning off Dodgers’ Rich Hill (nobody on)

Game 7, 2017: Second inning off Dodgers’ Yu Darvish (one on)

Game 1, 2019: Seventh inning off Washington’s Rainey (nobody on)

Springer also now has an extra-base hit in seven consecutive World Series games, extending his own record.

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