It's a must-win game for Houston

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 3 Preview

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The beginning of the 2019 World Series could not have started much worse than it has for the Houston Astros. After finishing the regular season with the best overall record, the home-field advantage they fought so hard to achieve was for naught in Games 1 and 2 in Houston.

The Washington Nationals would not be denied in the first two games of the series, taking down two of the best pitchers in the league this year, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Their ability to steal the first two games on the road has put themselves in prime position to take the Commissioner's Trophy. The pressure is squarely on the Astros going into Friday's Game 3 in D.C. as they must now win four of the next five games to avoid a disappointing end to a great season. Here is a quick look at the critical Game 3:

Game Facts

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

Where: Nationals Park - Washington, D.C.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Greinke vs Sanchez.

Series: Nationals lead 2-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Nationals 5, Astros 4Minute Maid Park, Houston TXCole (L) vs Scherzer (W)
Game 2Nationals 12, Astros 3Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (L) vs Strasburg (W)
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

A must-win game for the Astros

Very few would have predicted that the Nationals would be up 2-0 in this series. Credit where it is due, Washington was overpowering and won those games by force, but it is no less of a shock and defeat for the Astros. The road ahead for them is one that not many can navigate and come out ahead, as they now have to take at least two of the three on the road at Nationals Park to push the series back to Houston for Games 6 and possibly 7.

Furthermore, they'll have to do it with Zack Greinke and possibly a bullpen day in the next two games so that they can go back to their co-aces of Cole and Verlander on regular rest in Games 5 and 6 unless they are forced into using Cole on short rest in Game 4. While it is not an elimination game, it might as well be considering if the Astros lose Game 3, the odds are stacked too high against them to have a significant chance at going on a four-game streak against Washington. Simply put, Houston must win this game. However, if there was a team in the league this year that could break out and come back from a two-game deficit, it's these Astros.

Greinke has to have his best game and have run support

For Houston to have their best chance at taking this game, they will have to get more out of Zack Greinke than they have thus far this postseason. Over his three starts, one the ALDS and two in the ALCS, he has been able to log just fourteen innings while allowing ten earned runs. With a potential bullpen day looming in Game 4, the Astros have to get a lengthier start from Greinke where he doesn't let Washington explode offensively.

If he does his job and keeps it a close game, then it will be up to his offense behind him to get the job done as well. Houston has left 20 on base through the first two games while going 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position. While Wednesday's Game 2 was a blowout where a few extra runs wouldn't have helped them, the lack of offense when it has mattered most has been a symptom of an offense that has not been able to translate their regular-season success to the postseason.

On a positive note, George Springer and Yordan Alvarez have looked much better this series, but it will take a combined effort down the entire lineup to cut the Nationals' series lead to 2-1 with a victory in Game 3. To do so, they'll have to go through Anibal Sanchez, who has allowed just one run in his two starts in these playoffs.

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.

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It seems like every single day there is a new update on player testing positive for the Coronavirus. After a team outbreak on the Miami Marlins and new positive tests on the St. Louis Cardinals, it feels like the baseball season could be on the brink of being canceled by Rob Manfred if things do not get better fast.

ESPN MLB reporter and analyst Tim Kurkjian joined The Jake Asman Show on SportsMap Radio Monday to discuss this situation. Kurkjian presented a bleak outlook when asked if he thinks MLB will complete its season.

"I don't think we are going to make it through," Kurkjian said. "The game is in turmoil and it should be given what it is up against, a pandemic like we have never seen before. My guess is that if we have another outbreak like the Marlins or even like the Cardinals then that might be enough to say the schedule is too messed up, the integrity of the game is in question but most important the health and safety of all people around the game is in question, so that might be enough to say 'alright we aren't going to play' but that is a very difficult decision the commissioner does not want to make."

Multiple reports seem to indicate that several Marlins players went out to a bar and broke MLB's protocol as did a few of the Cardinals when they reportedly went to a casino on their road trip. Is it fair to blame the players if the season ends up getting canceled?

"I think the bottom line is when this started, we were asking a bunch of young guys in their early 20s to show discipline and restraint that maybe they haven't shown their whole life," Kurkjian said. "That was a challenge to begin with and obviously some mistakes have been made but to blame the players for this entirely I'm not sure that is fair either."

When asked about the recent altercation between Joe Kelly of the Dodgers and the Astros, Kurkjian said he wasn't surprised a player went after the Astros but knew that baseball was trying to send a message by suspending Kelly for eight games.

"Even though eight games was a harsh penalty, I think it was Major League Baseball saying 'we have to send a message,' Kurkjian said. "MLB is trying to social distance in the middle of a pandemic and the last thing they need is a brawl, a dustup of any kind. To me this was baseball through Joe Kelly telling everyone 'we're not putting up with this.'

You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM -10 AM Central on SportsMap Radio.

You can listen to the full interview with Tim Kurkjian below:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/66WoodTsqgSVkzYkS1VPbi

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