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The Sports Report: Nationals rout the Astros in Game 2

Washington Nationals at Houston Astros, USA - 22 Oct 2019
Kurt Suzuki and Anthony Rendon of the Nationals.
(LARRY W SMITH / EPA)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

WORLD SERIES

Suddenly losing in five games to the Washington Nationals doesn’t seem so bad, does it, Dodgers fans?

The Nationals won their eighth straight game of the postseason by routing the Houston Astros, 12-3, on Wednesday night in Houston.

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Stephen Strasburg outdueled fellow ace Justin Verlander, overcoming a shaky start to give the Nationals a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series.

Kurt Suzuki hit a tiebreaking homer in what became a messy six-run seventh inning, and the Nationals headed back home to Washington for three games — if needed.

Adam Eaton paraded around the bases pointing to the Houston crowd after a late home run.

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.

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Making his 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.

Verlander, so good in the regular season, fell to 0-5 in six World Series starts. He gave up seven hits and four runs, and was lifted after walking a batter after Suzuki’s home run.

World Series schedule

All times Pacific. All games on Fox.

Game 1: Washington 5, at Houston 4

Game 2: Washington 12, at Houston 3

Game 3: Friday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.

Game 4: Saturday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.

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Game 5*: Sunday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.

Game 6*: Tuesday, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.

Game 7*: Wednesday, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.

*-if necessary

EL TRAFICO

For all that distinguishes LAFC’s Carlos Vela from the Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there is one big thing they have in common: Both are the captains and leaders of cross-town rivals that will meet in tonight’s much-anticipated MLS Western Conference semifinal at Banc of California Stadium.

“Obviously they’re both world-class players,” LAFC defender Steven Beitashour said. “And you’ve seen what they’ve done this season. They’re a major part to both their teams’ successes.”

Together they combined for 64 goals -- Vela with a league-record 34 and Ibrahimovic with a franchise-best 30. LAFC was the only team to score more than 64 goals this season.

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Never before has an MLS game, much less a playoff game, featured two 30-goal scorers.

They made their U.S. debuts just weeks apart last season and while the record books show Vela has had the best season in MLS history, Ibrahimovic has arguably been the most dominant player ever. And they’ve gone about it in different ways -- Vela with the skill and deception of a magician and Ibrahimovic with the strength and irrepressibility of a rampaging rhino – that reflect both their own personalities and the teams for which they play.

“Every day Carlos comes in here he’s got a smile, he’s got an easy way with his teammates,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said Wednesday. “He’s encouraging with his teammates.”

Ibrahimovic, who has compared himself to God, has pledged to break every MLS record and christened himself the best player in league history.

He might be right on that last one.

“You should enjoy him,” Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said after Sunday’s playoff loss to the Galaxy (16-15-3). “It’s a bit like Frank Sinatra. He’ll be dead before we know how good he is.”

Ibrahimovic, 38, is doing his best to make that happen before giving St. Peter the pleasure of shaking his hand. He is a Ferrari in a league full of Fiats, he said earlier this year, and he is not content to share. When the ball comes into the attacking third, if Ibrahimovic doesn’t get it, he often gestures wildly and angrily at the teammate who ignored him.

As a result, Ibrahimovic -– who always flies in first class -- has scored more than half his team’s goals and taken more shots on target than the next five Galaxy players combined. A loss Thursday could mark his last game in MLS, however, while a win would take him a step closer to his first MLS Cup.

Read more:

Dylan Hernandez: No hype is necessary to sell the LAFC vs. Galaxy rivalry

LAKERS

In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, Anthony Davis and LeBron James were sitting a few feet apart at their respective lockers finishing up a conversation as reporters trickled into the room.

James, holding a printed box score, noted the 25 points the Clippers scored off Lakers turnovers.

“And fastbreak. They had 22, right?” Davis said.

“Twenty-two, we had five,” James said. “That’s it right there.”

That was only the beginning of the Lakers’ dissection of Tuesday’s season-opening loss. The Clippers beat them 112-102, and the Lakers spent the next day of practice reviewing what happened, without overreacting to it, while figuring out how to improve what didn’t work.

“We looked at both ends of the ball, and there’s a thousand little execution pieces that we tried to clean up from post spacing to not running enough offensively, more second action, more side-to-side movement,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “… We’re not focused on the result each game as much as the process and building and tightening things up and all the little habits we know we need to win.”

CLIPPERS

Lou Williams, who turns 33 on Sunday and is entering his 15th season, has an opportunity to win a championship within his grasp now more than any time during his marvelous career.

So whether it’s practice or a game like the regular-season opener victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center, Williams is prepared to set the right example to attain success.

“I don’t know how many cracks I’m going to have at winning a championship,” Williams said. “I feel like we have a really good group. I don’t want that opportunity to go to waste because our mentalities aren’t sharp or we’re not strong mentally. So, I’m just doing my part to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that the competitive level is, we don’t take days off in practice and we compete.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA’s Chip Kelly told the Bruins to enjoy themselves against Stanford, sparking their best defensive effort of the season during a 34-16 victory that snapped a losing streak at 11 games against the Cardinal.

“When our head man said it, like, ‘Guys, I just want you to have fun. I just want you to enjoy it,’ ” linebacker Jason Harris said Wednesday, “once we heard him say it, we were like, all right, let’s do our thing. Let’s ball out.”

Harris made one of his team’s season-high seven sacks while limiting the Cardinal to 198 yards of offense, the first time UCLA had held an opponent under 200 yards since 2009.

To Harris, a graduate transfer from Illinois State, having more fun meant worrying less.

“We have a pretty in-depth schematic program here and sometimes it can get a little complicated for us,” Harris said, “but he just really wanted to put that aside and for us to not worry about making mistakes and just to fly around and have fun and I think that’s what we did and that’s why we saw a lot of success.

“For me, it’s just trying not to be perfect because a lot of times I want to be perfect. I want to not have any mental errors, get 100% on my assignments and stuff like that, which you want to do, but sometimes it can slow you down constantly thinking and you just have to let it loose and be a ballplayer because that’s what they want us to do.”

USC FOOTBALL

Clay Helton has always believed a quarterback’s true mind-set shows in his eyes. So when Kedon Slovis stared down a top-10 team, a historic road venue and a 14-point halftime deficit at Notre Dame two weeks ago, Helton looked at the quarterback for reassurance.

The USC coach was met with competitive fire from the freshman’s blue eyes.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is what you want to see from your quarterback,’ ” Helton said Wednesday, his eyes widening as he smiled. “There’s no fear, no hesitation.”

After Slovis caught fire late against Notre Dame, the Trojans need him to pick up where he left off in South Bend, Ind., when they face Colorado on Friday in Boulder, in search of their first road win of the season.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Galaxy at LAFC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Clippers at Golden St., 7:30 p.m., TNT, AM 570

Kings at St. Louis, 5 p.m., FSW

Ducks at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., PRIME

BORN ON THIS DATE

1926: Football player Y.A. Tittle (d. 2017)

1929: Baseball player/author Jim Brosnan (d. 2014)

1950: Baseball player Rawly Eastwick

1957: Baseball player/manager Ron Gardenhire

1960: Golfer Ian Baker-Finch

1961: Baseball player Rafael Belliard

1962: Football player Jay Novacek

1975: Football player Corey Dillon

1985: Soccer player Wayne Rooney

1987: Ice dancer Charlie White

DIED ON THIS DATE

1972: Baseball legend Jackie Robinson, 53

2004: Race car driver Ricky Hendrick

2012: Tennis player Margaret DuPont, 94

2012: Wrestler Jeff Blatnick, 55

AND FINALLY

Jackie Robinson is interviewed on “The Dick Cavett Show.” Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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