WASHINGTON — On a night of pitching dangerously, Zack Greinke and the Houston Astros' bullpen kept escaping.
They baffled batters when it mattered most, shutting down an October offense of uncanny timeliness.
Washington threatened in each of the first six innings but went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 in a 4-1 loss to Houston on Friday night. The Astros clawed back to 2-1 in the World Series after losing the first two games at home.
Houston pitchers had just one 1-2-3 inning, by Will Harris in the seventh, just the fourth time the Astros retired the side in order in the Series.
Unsustainable in the long run, but on this night good enough.
Greinke, pitching four days after his 36th birthday, was acquired by the Astros at the July 31 trade deadline to shore up the rotation but had struggled in the postseason, going 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts. He lost Game 3 of the AL Division Series to Tampa Bay and the AL Championship Series opener to the Yankees, then handed a lead to the bullpen in Houston's Game 4 victory over New York.
He displayed his broad repertoire against the Nationals, mixing four-seam fastballs (39) and two-seamers (six) with curveballs (18), changeups (18) and sliders (14) to keep batters off-balance. His fastest pitch was 93 mph, and his slowest 67.
Washington had a .314 average with runners in scoring position in its first 12 postseason games, 68 points higher than any of the other nine postseason teams.
"Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone," manager Dave Martinez said. "We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we've been doing."
In the capital's first World Series game since 1933, the Nationals got the crowd excited right away.
Anthony Rendon hit a two-out double in the first, but Juan Soto, playing on his 21st birthday, struck out on a 72 mph curve.
With two on and no outs in the second, Kurt Suzuki took a fastball for a called third strike and Victor Robles bounced a fastball into a 5-4-3 double play.
Washington put two on with one out in the third, but Rendon flied out on a fastball, Soto walked and Asdrúbal Cabrera struck out on a curve.
Robles' RBI triple with one out in the fourth cut Washington's deficit to one run, but Martinez let starter Aníbal Sánchez hit, and the pitcher fouled a bunt for strike three, screaming at himself. Trea Turner squibbed a curve back to Greinke for a groundout on the next pitch.
Then, in the game's key moment, Josh James relieved in the fifth after Cabrera's two-out double put runners on second third. After sending Ryan Zimmerman sprawling with a fastball near the batter's head, James struck Zimmerman out on a changeup that tailed inside.
After Brad Peacock walked two with one out in the sixth, Turner struck out on a low curve from Harris and Adam Eaton grounded another curve to first.
Roberto Osuna, booed loudly when he entered, froze Soto with a 99 mph fastball for a called third strike to end it. The Astros lined up in front of the third-base dugout for handshakes.
They managed to avoid a sweep. And maybe more.