Make no mistake, the Nationals are a formidable foe

5 reasons the Astros will win their second World Series title

photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros and Washington Nationals square off in the World Series with a championship on the line. While the Astros are favored, the teams are closer than many think, and the Nats have that "team of destiny" look about them. But if all things are equal, the Astros should squeak out a victory. Here are five reasons it could happen:

1) Been there, done that

The one big edge the Astros have is they have been here before. The core players were all part of the 2017 title, and the stage will not be too big for them. A.J. Hinch has managed the team to a title before, so there should be no surprises. Make no mistake, the biggest stage can cause even the best players to wither. (Just ask Yordan Alvarez about that ALCS). So experience is huge, and the Astros have a big edge here.

2) Tougher path?

The Nationals upset a Dodgers juggernaut in five games in round 1. Make no mistake, that was no small feat. But the Cardinals put up little fight in the NLCS, allowing the Nationals to coast to the Series. Meanwhile, the Astros survived a five-game dogfight with a deep Tampa pitching staff, and knocked off perhaps the second best team in baseball by beating the 103 win Yankees in six games. They faced adversity in a big way twice and came out ahead. They will face a tough bunch of starting pitchers in Washington, but they have also faced strong arms in the first two series.

3) The bullpen. Yes, that bullpen

The Nationals may have an edge at starting pitcher as they go four deep as opposed to the Astros three, and all of them are pretty evenly matched with the Astros starters. But Houston has the better, deeper bullpen, and the later they get with a lead, the better chance they will have to win games than the Nationals. The pen was overmatched against Tampa and New York. It won't be against Washington.

4) The better lineup

Again, the Nationals are no joke. Anthony Rendon is a legitimate MVP candidate. Howie Kendrick has been a postseason savage. Juan Soto is one of the best young hitters in the game. But the Astros lineup top to bottom is more talented. They have not played like it in the postseason, but some of these guys are way overdue to wake up. Alex Bregman in particular is due for a breakout. And if they can get Alvarez going...

5) Jose Altuve and the offense

Despite the lineup's postseason struggles, Altuve has been consistent, effective and clutch. If nothing else, the Astros can depend on him no matter what. If any of George Springer, Carlos Correa, Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Alvarez get going, the Astros should have enough offense to get by.

The bottom line

Washington can absolutely win this series. Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg are every bit the match for Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Beating the Dodgers was no fluke. This team was every bit as good as the Astros over the second half of the season. But thanks to the five reasons listed above, the Astros should be able to pull it out. If not, there will be no shame in losing to this team and it has still been a hell of a year. But it very well could - and should - end with the ultimate prize.

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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