World Series Preview: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
Is it time for the Nationals to win the first championship in team history?
October 22, 2019
After taking two opposite paths to get here, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are set to face off in the 2019 World Series.
The Nationals overcame a rocky 19-31 start to reach the playoffs as a wild-card team. In the playoffs, they continued their hot streak by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four. The Astros, on the other hand, enjoyed a spectacular season, finishing with 107 wins, their third straight season topping the century mark. To reach their second World Series in three years, they defeated the 103-win New York Yankees in six games off a walkoff home run by second baseman José Altuve.
On paper, the Nationals and the Astros have similarly constructed lineups — depth from top to bottom, with MVP candidates in third basemen Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon. The playoffs, however, have been a different story.
Houston’s offense has been struggling immensely with a team batting average of .208 in the ALCS; Altuvé and outfielder Michael Brantley have been the only consistent hitters in the lineup. Bregman, shortstop Carlos Correa and right fielder George Springer combined to bat around .200 in the ALCS while rookie phenom Yordon Álvarez finished the series with an abysmal .045 batting average and 12 strikeouts in only 22 at-bats.
Meanwhile, Washington’s offense has been on a tear this postseason, leading all teams with a .243 team batting average. Rendon, who is batting .375 in the playoffs with an eight-game hitting streak, and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick, who leads all NL postseason hitters with nine RBIs, have shown up in big ways for the Nats. Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, left fielder Juan Soto and shortstop Trea Turner have also had some strong batting performances in the playoffs.
Houston boasts a deadly pitching trio of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, who absolutely dominated the regular season. In the playoffs, Cole only gave up one run in 22.2 innings pitched. Verlander and Greinke have not been able to repeat their regular season heroics as Verlander’s 3.70 ERA and Grenkie’s abysmal 6.43 ERA in the playoffs have crippled the Astros pitching so far. Regardless of statistics, however, Verlander and Grenkie’s stellar reputations still make them dangerous threats in this series.
Although they don’t have as much depth, the Nationals still have a potent pitching duo in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg who posted ERAs of 1.80 and 1.64 in the playoffs, respectively. Swiftly emerging as the third viable option in the starting rotation, veteran Anibal Sanchez has been the surprise of the postseason with a 0.71 ERA in two games started. If Patrick Corbin — who posted a dismal 7.43 ERA in the playoffs — can return to his regular-season form, then the Nationals might be able to match the Astros’ lethal rotation.
Behind a fully rested squad after a quick NLCS sweep, an offense that dominated the postseason and a strong pitching rotation, the Washington Nationals will defeat the Houston Astros in six games, to win their first ever World Series in team history.
Email Arvind Sriram at [email protected]