The World Series is finally here. The National League Champions Washington Nationals take on the American League Champion Houston Astros.
How They Got Here
The Houston Astros entered the postseason with the best record in the American League. They defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and the New York Yankees during the ALCS. Houston clinched their bid to the World Series against the Bronx Bombers with a walk-off home run from Astros superstar Jose Altuve.
The Washington Nationals are one of the most surprising teams in baseball this season. After a crazy offseason, the Nationals moved on from the long-time face of the franchise, Bryce Harper. Harper signed with their division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals began the season towards the bottom of the league with a 19-41 record.
After a few acquisitions during the trade deadline, the Nationals became the league
The Nationals won the wildcard game in a matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the NLDS, they faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted the best record in the National League. The Nationals somehow found a way to force a Game 5 and won another elimination game, mainly with the help
The Designated Hitter
The designated hitter spot could be a factor in Game 1 and 2, as the Nationals will be able to add a bat in the pitcher’s spot. The hitting of the Nationals has been incredible thus far during the postseason. Washington leads all playoff teams with a .243 batting average and 45 runs.
Having the opportunity to add an extra bat to the lineup should give the Nat’s an edge. The designated hitter for Washington is expected to be NLCS MVP, Howie Kendrick. Kendrick went 5-for-15 during the NLCS sweep and recorded four doubles, and four RBI’s. Brian Dozier is scheduled to enter the starting lineup and play second base.
On the other side of the matchup, the designated hitter spot did not benefit the Astros in the ALCS. Rookie slugger Yordan Alverez did not perform well in the DH spot against the Yankees, as he only recorded a .045 batting average in 45 at-bats with 12 strikeouts.
World Series Worthy Pitchers Duel
The most exciting aspect this series will bring is the pitching matchup. These two teams arguably have the best rotations in their respected leagues.
Astros “Big Three”
The Astros will begin Game 1 with AL Cy Young Finalist Gerrit Cole. Cole has had a fantastic season, leading the MLB in strikeouts with 329, and recorded a 2.50 ERA. Cole’s postseason has been spectacular. In his three appearances and 22.2 innings, Gerrit recorded 32 strikeouts, continuing his dominance as arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball.
Houston will continue to field superstars in Game 2 with potential future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. Verlander, also a Cy Young Finalist, ended with 300 strikeouts and posted a 2.58 ERA. Verlander has seen mixed results in this postseason. After a dominant win against the Rays during the NLDS, Verlander pitched on short rest and did not perform well. He has gone 1-2 in his four starts and posted an ERA of 3.70.
The Astros three-man playoff rotation also includes Trade Deadline acquisition
Nationals Four-Man Advantage
The Nationals also have a star-studded rotation. One of Washington’s aces, Max Scherzer, has been fantastic during the Nats’ run. “Mad Max” has recorded a 1.80 ERA and 27 strikeouts during his four appearances, including a no-hit bid into the late innings during the NLCS. Unlike a number of other arms, Scherzer has World Series experience. He was
Stephen Strasburg is also another big-time pitcher for the Nationals. He will need to continue to perform well to keep the Nationals in the running for their first World Series title. During the postseason, Strasburg has posted 1.64 ERA and 33 strikeouts.
Anibal Sanchez also has World Series experience, as he joined Scherzer on the 2012 Tigers pitching staff. Sanchez has gone unnoticed, being overshadowed by the other big arms in the Nationals rotation. The NLCS has changed the views of many, though, as Sanchez ran a no-hitter into the 8th inning during Game 1. Once again, Sanchez needs to continue to perform to high standards to keep the Nationals in the mix.
Patrick Corbin has helped solidify the Nationals’ chances to make their way to the World Series after being acquired in the off season. During the postseason, Corbin has started games and made appearances in relief with mixed performances so far. The former Diamondback has appeared in five games and posted a 7.43 ERA. Corbin will need the most out of his appearances to give the Nationals an edge over the Astros rotation.
Bullpen World Series X
The most surprising aspect from the Nationals this postseason has been the bullpen. During the regular season, Washington had the worst bullpen in the National League. Adding a new closer in Daniel Hudson from Toronto during the trade deadline helped solidify the core to move them forward in a wildcard bid.
During the postseason, the regular season woes of the bullpen have been nonexistent. During the NLCS, the bullpen only allowed four hits and eight strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work. They will undoubtedly become the X-Factor for the Nationals. If players such as Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, and Daniel Hudson do not perform, they will be in big trouble.
Fire Still Burning in Washington?
The Nationals will look to continue their explosive play during their postseason run after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Their potent bats and shutdown rotation helped punch their ticket for the first W
The NLCS ended last Tuesday – meaning the Nationals have been waiting for the Houston Astros to win the ALCS for an entire week. This lull in the schedule could be a concern as the team attempts to keep their momentum going.
As discussed in a recent article closing out the Nationals NLCS win, I explained how momentum had been an issue in the past for the World Series teams. The 2007 Colorado Rockies breezed through the NL playoffs and punched their ticket to the World Series nine days before it began. The long wait drained their momentum and the Boston Red Sox swept the Rockies.
Game One will be the determining factor to see if the Nationals are still the hot team. Tuesday’s game will begin at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time) and will feature two stud pitchers: Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer.
Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!
Check out our partners at Shoreline Sportsbook for all of your sport betting needs! Use promo code OTHGambling when you sign up and get your deposit matched 100% up to $500