HOUSTON Justin Verlander, Joe Smith and Will Harris threw the ball at Minute Maid Park as the slanting late afternoon sunlight streamed through the large panes of glass and through the right field.
After arriving home at 4:30 in the morning, they were back in a familiar environment, yes, but home, sweet, home has been anything but in this contrary World Series. For the third time in the series' history, the away team won the first five games.
"I don't think there's really a rhyme or a reason why this happened," said Harris.
In a history of two cities, National beat Astros 17-7 in their first two games at Minute Maid Park last week. After the day of the trip, Houston passed the capital in Washington, surpassing Nats 19-3.
"I think I would have preferred to play the last three games on the road with the result," said Washington coup artist Trea Turner with a laugh after Houston swept three games at Nationals Park.
This is the first time the team has won the first five games since 1996, when Braves shook the New York Yankees 16-1 in two games in two games, and lost their last three games in Atlanta. Fulton County Stadium were then defeated in Game 6 at the Bronx.
Returning to the 1906 Windy City Series, when the home team alternated every day, the Chicago White Sox won Games 1, 3 and 5 at the West Side Grounds and the Cubs played Games 2 and 4 at the South Side Park. The White Sox finally gave the home crowd something to cheer on in game 6, reaching an advantage of six wins and 8-3.
Houston was 60-21 at the Minute Maid this season, the best home record in major leagues since the 1998 New York Yankees, and Washington's 50 home wins tied for third in the NL. Eighteen of the 30 teams had home records during the regular season, and clubs were generally between 1,286-1,143 at home, with a winning percentage of 0.529, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The home clubs then spent 17-13 post-season through the League Championship Series.
But the World Series has been a good trip lately. Including Boston's Dodger Stadium wins at Games 4 and 5 last year, visiting teams won seven straight World Series games for the first time.
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington's first baseman, doesn't think much about the trend.
"I don't think home and road issues in baseball beyond the exit obviously," he said. "During the season when you stay home for 10 home games and can sleep in your bed and other teams may be on a long trip, but during the playoffs you have days off."
Washington and Houston looked like two different teams after the change of stadium. The Astros were 20 at home and went 3 to 17 with the runners in scoring position, then went 7 to 21 with the RISP in D.C.
"Trust never left us," said Joe Smith, the manager of Astros. “It was just a matter of time. You can feel it coming. I could feel it coming. I think we can all feel it coming.
After passing 7 to 21 with runners in scoring position on the road, the National went 1 to 21 at home.
"We punched the gut quite hard in the first two games," said Astros manager AJ Hinch. “The nats came out hot. They won a close game and then surprised us late. And then you take a step back, and continue: We're still in the World Series and there's still a race for four wins. You win the first victory. I said this: I think the vibration would start to improve a little. "
Some players have said over the years that it is easier to play on the road without the distraction of dealing with well-meaning but time-consuming family and friends. National manager Dave Martinez didn't think there was an advantage to being frightened in a hotel.
"I'm not a big room service provider," he said. “I like to go out and eat. Houston has some good restaurants that I like. "
The home teams are between 43 and 24 in game 6, winning five of the last six. The exception was 2016, when the Cubs overcame the 3-1 Series deficit and took their last two games in Cleveland to their first championship since 1908.
Washington right-wing defender Adam Eaton sees the National as a road warrior, recalling a three-game play at Chicago's Wrigley Field in August full of attitude – perhaps even a bit of road rage.
"We kind of had a chip on his shoulder, wanting to get in there and prove something," he said. "We're going back to their place where we had some success. I hope we can have that villain mentality and come together as a group."
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