HOUSTON – Stephen Strasburg’s time had come.
Famously held out of the postseason seven years ago, Strasburg delivered on the biggest stage of all Wednesday night.
The right-hander outpitched fellow ace Justin Verlander, overcoming a shaky start to help the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros 12-3 for a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series.
Strasburg went six innings to earn the win — and a group hug in the dugout when he was done on the mound.
“They keep squeezing me a little harder every time,” he said. “That’s OK.”
Kurt Suzuki hit a tiebreaking homer in what became a messy six-run seventh inning, and the Nationals headed back home to Washington for the next two games — three if needed.
Adam Eaton paraded around the bases pointing to the Houston crowd after a late home run as the Nationals won their eighth in a row. They’ve won 18 of 20 overall dating back to the regular season, with the last two over AL Cy Young Award favorites Gerrit Cole and Verlander.
Game 3 is Friday night when Anibal Sanchez opposes Houston’s Zack Greinke in the first World Series game in the nation’s capital since 1933.
“Probably going to be a little frigid, might be a little cold, so bring your jackets and your beanies,” said slugger Anthony Rendon, who hit a two-run double in the first inning.
The 31-year-old Strasburg had waited years for this chance. Back in 2012, he was about two years removed from Tommy John surgery when Nationals brass decided protecting his elbow was more important than pitching him in the playoffs, so he was shut down late in a season full of promise.
Making his World Series debut, Strasburg allowed a two-run homer to Alex Bregman in the first before throwing five shutout innings to improve 4-0 this postseason. He allowed seven hits and struck out seven.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez was asked what’s allowed Strasburg to be so good this postseason.
“One, he has the confidence to do it and two, he’s become a premier pitcher, a big-game pitcher,” Martinez said. “He doesn’t get rattled.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5