Finally, the mecca for all baseball fans is here: the World Series. The Fall Classic has provided some of the most memorable baseball moments and this edition looks to be gearing up for a dramatic one. The Washington Nationals will represent the National League while the Houston Astros will represent the American League. Let’s take a look at each team.
The Nationals were left for dead back in May when they were 19-31 and most people wrote them off. From that point on they kept winning games and were one of the hottest teams in baseball as Washington went 74-38 to make the postseason. In the National League Wild Card game, the Nationals took on the Milwaukee Brewers, but were floundering as they could only muster one run through seven innings. Then in the eighth, against a stud pitcher in Josh Hader, Washington rallied and took a one run lead they would not relinquish and advanced to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had been the best team in the National League all season and many expected them to go to their third straight World Series, but the Nationals had other plans as they battled Los Angeles to five games and won on a game winning extra inning grand slam from Howie Kendrick to advance to the National League Championship Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals. In the NLCS, Washington absolutely dominated the Cardinals as they swept them in four games advancing to their first World Series berth in franchise history dating back to when the team was in Montreal and the first time the Fall Classic has been in Washington, D.C. since 1933. They have now exorcised all those postseason demons as all those painful collapses in the playoffs seem like distant memories.
The Astros looked to be the best team in the league coming into the season especially picking up a great bat in Michael Brantley during the offseason and they lived up to their billing as Houston was dominant all season long. However, the Astros were not satisfied with the roster they had as they wanted to put themselves over the top as the team acquired starting pitcher Zack Greinke to boost their rotation. Houston won it’s division pretty handedly despite a good Oakland side right behind them in the standings. In the Division Series, the Astros took on the Tampa Bay Rays and took a 2-0 lead in the series before being pushed to brink as Tampa Bay tied it at 2-2, but Houston rallied and won the fifth game to advance to the American League Championship Series to take on the New York Yankees. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the series, but the Astros rallied to win games one, two, and three to make things difficult for New York to come back, and despite the Yankees winning game five and tying Houston in the ninth of game six, the Astros won on a walk off home run from Jose Altuve to send his team to their second World Series berth in three years. Now they hope to win their second world championship in franchise history.
How They Matchup
This is the most exciting part of this matchup as these two teams have three starting pitchers who could easily be aces on other squads, but here they are vying for a World Series victory for their respective squads. The Nationals have three awesome starting pitchers in Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg, but they also have a pretty good one in Anibal Sanchez who has reinvented himself to be a reliable and masterful pitcher from the fourth spot. The Astros also have some stud pitchers as Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke are lights out, however, when it comes to the fourth spot, there are some questions as they would have to trot out someone like Wade Miley, Jose Urquidy, Brad Peacock, or Collin McHugh or would have to go to a bullpen game. If the two teams have to depend on their rotations then Washington has the advantage here, but expect there to be a lot of pitcher’s duels in this series.
Now this is where things get tricky. While the Nationals had a bad bullpen this season, it really hasn’t hurt them in the postseason thus far, however, outside of Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson, their bullpen hasn’t pitched all that much as manager Davey Martinez has figured out a way to mask that problem by letting some of his guys from the rotation come out of the bullpen. Of their bullpen usage this postseason, 90 percent of when Martinez called to his bullpen it was either calling on Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Doolittle, Sanchez, or Hudson. Rookie Tanner Rainey, the grizzled 42-year old veteran Fernando Rodney, or someone like Austin Voth, Javy Guerra, or Roenis Elias will need to have to step up if they want to help their team win. Maybe even Jeremy Hellickson, Joe Ross, Hunter Strickland, or Wander Suero will have to come out of the bullpen to help out. The Astros have a very reliable one with arms like Ryan Pressley, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, and Will Harris have all done a great job and their closer Roberto Osuna is pretty dang good too. It will be interesting to see what Washington does with their bullpen, but Houston’s is not a question mark as they have the advantage here.
Both of these teams can slug, but the Nationals rely on both their veterans and young talent to win games. The veterans on this team like Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Kurt Suzuki help lead the team by example, but the young talent is really fun to watch like Juan Soto, a superstar in the making, Victor Robles, and Trea Turner. The Astros are definitely a lot younger, but they are super talented and have a lot of thump. With the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick, and Yordan Alvarez, that is a lineup that is super scary to face no matter who’s rotation is out there. Houston holds an edge here, but Washington is pretty good too.
Just like their lineup, the Nationals have a lot of veterans there that could be the difference as Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Adams, Gerardo Parra, Brian Dozier, and Yan Gomes all have a lot of mileage on them and Michael A. Taylor is a nice depth player. The Astros will have a platoon at catcher, but having either Martin Maldonado and Robinson Chirinos on the bench for whoever starts is a good thing, and they also have Kyle Tucker, Jake Marisnick and Aledmys Diaz who provide speed, power, and defense. The Nationals might have the edge here.
Rest Or Grind, Will That Matter In The Series?
The problem with the Nationals sweeping the Cardinals is that they have had a long rest and when you are that hot the last thing you want is a day off. That being said, it will be interesting to see whether the Nationals will be rusty or be back on their game in this series. Houston played to a sixth game in their series with the Yankees and in a game where players virtually play every day, the Astros still have their timing and rhythm that they desire. However, will that mean they are tired or they will be at their best? It will be interesting to see who has the advantage there.
James Rowe: Astros. As a D.C. native, my heart wants to say the Nationals as it really is awesome to see the hometown team in the biggest stage in baseball, but the head is pressuring me to say Houston as they have been one of the best teams in the sport that I’ve ever seen. That being said, I do think this will be a close one and a lot of fun to watch. Sure, Houston might be heavily favored, but the odds don’t mean anything until the series is over. Also, since at that same point of the season where Washington was 19-31, both teams have been the best teams in baseball with the Nationals at 74-38 and the Astros at 73-37. So, with the two hottest teams in baseball going up against one another, it’s going to be a good one to watch.