Make no mistake, the Nationals are a formidable foe
5 reasons the Astros will win their second World Series title
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.