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Nationals treating World Series Game 6 like their Game 7

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez said his team will approach Game 6 of the World Series vs. the Houston Astros as if it were Game 7.
Credit: AP
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of Game 2 of the baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

HOUSTON — Officially, Game 7 of the 2019 World Series is scheduled for Wednesday night.

But if that game is even going to be played, the Washington Nationals need to beat the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday. And as a result, differentiating the two games for Washington manager Dave Martinez is a matter of merely splitting hairs.

"Right now my focus is on Game 6. We've got to treat that as Game 7 right now," Martinez said on Monday. "There won't be a Game 7 if we can't get a Game 6. So our focus is winning tomorrow and go 1-0 and go from there."

Martinez's mindset is only natural as the Nationals find themselves facing elimination as they trail the Astros three games to two in the best-of-seven series. With a win on Tuesday -- or Wednesday -- Houston would win its second World Series in three seasons, while Washington would see its own magical run come to an end on baseball's biggest stage.

That the Nationals would find itself with their backs against the wall already would have seemed unfathomable less than a week ago when they returned to Washington with a 2-0 series lead after winning Games 1 and 2 in Houston. The Astros, however, went on to win Games 3, 4 and 5 at Nationals Park, pushing the National League champs to the brink of elimination on Tuesday night.

Credit: AP
Washington Nationals' Juan Soto hits a home run during the fourth inning of Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Houston Astros Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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For Martinez, the position he currently finds himself in isn't all that familiar. Just three years ago, the former MLB outfielder was serving as the bench coach of the Chicago Cubs, who fell behind the Cleveland Indians three games to one in the 2016 World Series.

The Cubs, however, rallied back to win the next three games, capturing the franchise's first world championship in 108 years. And while the circumstances may not be identical, Martinez feels similarly optimistic about his team's outlook for Tuesday night.

"We have Stephen Strasburg on the mound, who has been unbelievable for us this year," Martinez said, referencing his team's Game 6 starter. "The guys feel good. We were talking last night after the press conference, and they're all upbeat. They don't think that this -- this is way far from over."

Should the Nationals force a Game 7, it would ignite a winner-take-all situation for Wednesday where all eyes would turn toward Washington ace Max Scherzer, whose availability remains unclear due to back spasms.

But before he worries about whether or not he'll have Scherzer available for Game 7 and if so, how he'll use him, the mission for Martinez remains clear: Get there.

"We've got to win this game," Martinez said, "to get to Game 7."