Houston will look to Verlander to try and even the series

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 2 Preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Coming in as heavy favorites to win the series, and with their hottest pitcher on the mound at home in Game 1, the Game 1 loss by the Astros to the Nationals is a disappointment. However, the Astros are no strangers to this situation, having experienced a similar situation in ALCS Game 1 against the Yankees.

Just like in that series, they have Justin Verlander at home in Game 2 to even the series and shift the momentum back their way. Here is a quick look at World Series Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 7:07 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Verlander vs Strasburg.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Nationals 5, Astros 4Minute Maid Park, Houston TXCole vs Scherzer
Game 2Wednesday 10/23, 7:07 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Strasburg
Game 3Friday 10/25, 7:07 PMNationals Park, Washington D.C.Greinke+ vs Sanchez+
Game 4Saturday 10/26, 7:07 PMNationals Park, Washington D.C.TBD vs TBD
Game 5*Sunday 10/27, 7:07 PMNationals Park, Washington D.C.TBD vs TBD
Game 6*Tuesday, 10/29, 7:07 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Wednesday 10/30, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Another terrific pitching matchup

Although the Game 1 matchup between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer ended up yielding more runs than predicted, Game 2 offers another chance for two high-caliber pitchers to hold the opposing lineup at bay. The Nationals will look to Stephen Strasburg to try and steal both road games in Houston before going back to Nationals Park. Including a three-inning appearance out of the bullpen in the Wild Card game, Strasburg has thrown 22 innings in the postseason while allowing five runs (four earned). He is, however, coming off his best start of the bunch, a seven-inning shutout performance against the Cardinals in the NLCS, where he struck out twelve.

Houston will trust the ball with their potential Cy Young winner and co-ace, Justin Verlander. Unlike Strasburg, who is coming off his best start, Verlander will be looking to right the ship after a horrible first inning in the Bronx in ALCS Game 5 where he allowed four runs on two homers to the Yankees, which would ultimately be the undoing of the Astros in that game. Verlander did leave that game with something to build on, finishing his next six innings scoreless. He will look to have a game more like his first of this postseason, a seven-inning one-hit outing against the Rays in ALDS Game 1.

Houston must do more with their opportunities

While the Nationals scoring five runs on Gerrit Cole was undoubtedly impressive and ultimately earned them the win in World Series Game 1, it was Houston being unable to take advantage of critical opportunities that left them coming up short in the game. When it was all said and done, Houston was 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, leaving eleven runners on base, which is monumental in a game that would be decided by just one run.

On the positive side, the Astros had two big healthy signs at the plate in the loss on Tuesday with George Springer looking like the offensive force he was in the 2017 World Series, along with Yordan Alvarez, who went 2-for-3 with a walk in a possibly slum-breaking game. To take Game 2 and even the series, they will have to convert more scoring opportunities.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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