The Citizens reunite with the Astros, who immediately pounces on Josiah Gray

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The Houston Astros’ second baseman, Jose Altuve, climbed into the batsman’s box to start Friday’s game and was booed from the Nationals Park crowd of 18,433. Altuve responded by blasting Homer into midfield on first pitch for Josiah Gray, one of five runs the 24-year-old right-hander allowed in a first-half loss 6-1.

Even more boos followed Altuve’s home run. Over two years since the Nationals beat the Astros to win the 2019 World Championship, a lot has changed for these two teams. But the fans’ hatred of Houston remains strong.

Since the Nationals won the title one October night in Texas, franchisees have traveled in opposite directions. The seventh game victory was the players’ last playoff. The Astros reached the World Championships again last season, falling to another team sprinkled with fate in the Braves.

Ahead of the game, Nationals manager Dave Martinez played down the importance of Friday’s comeback post.

“The memories will never be forgotten, but they are behind us,” Martinez said. “They have some new players, a different team. We come with different players as well. They are two completely different football clubs.”

The ‘Absolute Rush’ and the endless pressure of being a third base coach

Only eight players from the Washington World roster are still on the team. Three have not played this year (Annibal Sanchez, Joe Ross and Stephen Strasbourg), one is on the 60-day injured roster (Sean Doolittle), and only four are eligible to play Friday night (Juan Soto, Patrick Corbin, Tanner Rennie and Victor Robles).

Will Harris, the losing bowler in Game 7, is a patriot now, but is working his way back from injury.

Houston still retains 11 players from that World Series team, even after the signal-stealing scandal and former Nationals manager Dusty Baker — who received a standing ovation on Friday — took over. It was the eight hitters remaining in Friday’s squad that helped the Astros grab the lead early on and take their 11th win in a row.

“[Gray] “I don’t think he’s going to throw the ball in the middle, especially when you have a team like this hitting,” Martinez said. “Today is an excellent example: he missed it early, and he paid the price.”

After a tuff career at home, Gray gave up the doubles for Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman. Yordan Alvarez followed him up with a single that led at Bergman, putting Gray on a 3-0 early hole. Just when things looked like they were getting better for Gray when he made Kyle Tucker out to catch Kibert Ruiz, he allowed a two-time home run to Yuli Gouriel to push the Astros forward 5-0. Gray threw only 14 shots and allowed five hits at an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.

“Elite hitters,” Gray said of the Astros. “It’s as good as it gets, so obviously to continue to set my things up and do better. … After the first, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to give the team as much as I can.’ And to be able to go for six things was a positive thing.”

Gray, perhaps the Nationals’ biggest prospect on the deadline for a deal with the Dodgers last summer, settled after the first half. He only allowed one entry over the next five rounds, helping to save the bulls while throwing 59 of his 94 hits. But the damage was done. Gray, who came with a 3.45 ERA, saw that mark rise to 4.34 by the time he left.

After the first, Gray and Ruiz used all of their right-handed arsenal and moved them around the strike zone to keep the Astros out of balance. He retired 14 of the last 18 hits he faced, and his only major slip was the third inning at home as he sent Alvarez 438 feet into the dead center, extending the Astros’ lead to 6-0.

“The fact that unfortunately he was giving up those five innings in the first half and then came back and threw really good five innings, that says a lot about his ability,” Ruiz said through an interpreter.

How did Alcides Escobar perform on his return to the squad? Escobar has made a productive return to the field after missing the final Nationals series with an injury under his left finger nail. He went 0 for 4 but led in the team’s only round by picking a player in the seventh inning.

He also made a pair of star plays defensively. On the fifth, he started a double play with a rosary diving stop, jumping to the second mark before Alvarez was fired. After two rounds, he did a bare-handed play to eliminate Altuve on the Dodger.

How many visits did citizens achieve on Friday? Only eight – all singles. The team couldn’t hit hits together in a row, finishing 0-for-4 with the runners in the scoring position and leaving eight runners at the base.

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