HOUSTON – Justin Verlander, Joe Smith and Will Harris tossed the ball at Minute Maid Park as slanting light from the late-afternoon sun streaked through the large glass panels and across right field.
After arriving home at 4:30 a.m., they were back in familiar surroundings, yes, but home, sweet, home has been anything but in this contrarian World Series. For just the third time in Series history, the visiting team has won the first five games.
“I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason why maybe that’s happened,” Harris said.
In a tale of two cities, the Nationals outscored the Astros 17-7 in the first two games at Minute Maid Park last week. After the travel day, Houston had a capital time in Washington, outscoring the Nats 19-3.
“I think I would have rather played the last three games on the road, with the outcome,” Washington shortstop Trea Turner said with a chuckle after Houston swept three games at Nationals Park.
This is the first time the road team has won the first five games since 1996, when the Braves rocked the New York Yankees by a combined 16-1 in two games to spurt ahead on the road, lost the final three games played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then were beaten in Game 6 in the Bronx.
Going back to the Windy City Series of 1906, when the home team alternated each day, the Chicago White Sox won Games 1, 3 and 5 at the West Side Grounds and the Cubs took Games 2 and 4 at South Side Park. The White Sox finally gave the home faithful something to cheer in Game 6, bursting to a six-run lead and winning 8-3.
Houston was 60-21 at Minute Maid this season, the best home record in the major leagues since the 1998 New York Yankees, and Washington’s 50 home wins tied for third-most in the NL. Eighteen of the 30 teams had winning records at home during the regular season, and overall clubs were 1,286-1,143 at home for a .529 winning percentage, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Home clubs then went 17-13 in the postseason through the League Championship Series.
Including Boston’s victories at Dodger Stadium in Games 4 and 5 last year, visiting teams have won seven straight World Series games for the first time.
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