World Series Preview Nationals vs Astros

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.

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Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve prepares to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

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 leagues hottest team and claimed a wildcard bid for the MLB Postseason.

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(Kevin Dietsch/UPI)

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 from a late grand slam by Howie Kendrick, to move to the National League Championship series. The Nationals then moved on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to click their ticket for the franchise’s first-ever World Series.

The Designated Hitter

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(Patrick Semansky, AP)

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”

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(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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.

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(Elsa/Getty Images)

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.

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(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Astros three-man playoff rotation also includes Trade Deadline acquisition Zack Greinke. The addition of Greinke in July has made the Astros starting rotation one of the most fearful in recent history. Between the Diamondbacks and the Astros, Greinke recorded 187 strikeouts and a 2.93 ERA. Grienke has seen some criticism during the postseason for his play; in just 14 innings so far in the playoffs, he has posted an awful 6.43 ERA. Improvement from Greinke is crucial for Astros success in this series.

Nationals Four-Man Advantage

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(Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

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 i Detroit in 2012 when the Tigers lost to the San Fransico Giants. Game 1 with Scherzer against Cole will set the tone for the entire series, especially the rotation.

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(Getty Images)

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.

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(Scott Kane/Getty Images)

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. Hehas only seen 12.2 innings of work so far in the playoffs, but has made the most of them. He has posted 14 strikeouts and a 0.71 ERA.

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WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 15: Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of Game Four of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

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 XFactor?

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.

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(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

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 World series in franchise history.

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.

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