Let me confess straight up, I wrote this piece prior to Game One of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals. This means that by the time you read this, my thoughts (and predictions) could be all wrong since games have been played. But I doubt it.
We are starting to get used to the Astros playing World Series baseball. Conversely, we have been waiting for the Nats to make a World Series appearance.
It is quite amazing that Washington made it here. From a 19-31 record on May 24 with manager Dave Martinez’s job on the line to a rapid transformation that led to an NL pennant. Now the Nationals sit four games shy of winning their first World Series.
I think it is safe to say that this matchup will come down to pitching. In a season that saw homeruns leave the park at an all-time rate, runs may be hard to get in this series.
We have a battle between two all-time playoff rotations. Future Hall of Famers will go toe-to-toe on the mound with a shot to add a title to their resumes.
Max Scherzer, who already has a future spot in Cooperstown all but guaranteed, started Game One for the Nationals. This series gives him a chance to put his name among the game’s all-time greats and to be a hero in Washington for life. We’ve seen Scherzer turn it up in October with one run allowed and 18 strikeouts across 14 innings in his past two starts. If he keeps it going and the Nationals win their first World Series, it’ll be an all-time moment that earns Scherzer a statue at Nationals Park.
Houston will answer Scherzer with the one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole
Cole elevated his game to historic levels in 2019 and that’s continued in the playoffs. After recording a 2.50 ERA with a record-breaking 39.9 percent strikeout rate in the regular season, Cole is dominating in October with a 0.40 ERA and 38.1 percent strikeout rate in 22.2 innings. He took the mound in Game 1 and could push to start in Game 4 and a potential Game 7.
And then there is Verlander. He will also be in Cooperstown and he has an excellent postseason resume that includes leading Houston to its last title.
The wildcard, pitching-wise, could be Zack Greinke of the Astros. Will we see the Greinke that dominates in regular season play or the Greinke that has a 4.44 ERA in 81 career post season innings? Greinke discovering his best could give Houston everything it needs to win a title, but anything else puts that in jeopardy.
The fifth pitcher who has Hall of Fame possibilities is Stephen Strasburg of the Nats. Strasburg is fully capable of shutting Houston down, as evidenced by his 18-6 record this season.
I believe we are in for a few pitching duels over the next week or so. I say this knowing that both teams have excellent offenses. But in the end, pitching usually trumps hitting.
Washington likely will have most of the country rooting for them to win its first ever World Series. But, I feel Houston has the most talented roster. They also have the experience edge and home field advantage.
I like Houston to win in six games.