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.


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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Keep an eye on Tank Dell this Sunday. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

I remember thinking how in the world can these little frail guys survive at the NFL level? I mean, I saw Joe Theismann and Ed McCaffrey's legs snap. Drew Bledsoe got his chest caved in. Seeing 300-plus pound men cry when injured is humbling. So when a guy like Tank Dell comes along, I'm always a bit apprehensive. Especially when they come with a ton of hype.

For every eight to ten big strong players that get hurt, there's one or two little fellas that have relatively healthy careers. The comp that came to mind when looking at Tank was DeSean Jackson. Listed at 5'10 and weighing a heavy 175 pounds, Jackson was arguably the best “small guy” in NFL history. Dell being about two inches shorter and about ten pounds lighter, while also playing a similar role, is in line to be a similarly electrifying type of player. I put my assessment on the line and doubled down with my predictions on what his, and others' season totals will look like last week:

Tank Dell: 68 catches, 1,105 yards and 6 touchdowns- Dell will be a really good slot, but has some outside skills. Namely, his speed. He's more slippery than if Mick had greased that chicken before Rocky tried catching it. I could see his production going up as the season gets longer because Stroud will begin to look for him more and more as they build chemistry. Yes, I know I only have him with six scores. Keep in mind this is a run first offense. At least that's what we can deduce from looking at where it came from in San Francisco.

In his debut game last week vs the Ravens, he notched three catches for 34 yards on four targets. He was tied for third on the team in targets with Noah Brown and Mike Boone. While Robert Woods and Nico Collins were one and two in targets last week, I think Dell will ascend that list starting this week. Word came down that Noah Brown is headed to IR, meaning he'll miss at least the next four weeks. The chemistry he and fellow rookie C.J. Stroud have developed is palpable. From working out together, to attending UH games together, these two seem to have a nice bond already.

Woods is a solid vet two years removed from an ACL injury. Collins was a third rounder with size who hasn't done a whole lot. Dell is easily the most exciting option at receiver this team has. John Metchie III was expected to be the next guy up. Unfortunately, cancer had him take a backseat, until now. Metchie is back at practice this week, so a debut is imminent. He could potentially challenge for more playing time, but it may take him some time to get used to things and get going again.

As far as my statistical prediction for his season, he only needs to average four catches for 67 yards per game, and get a touchdown every two to three games for the remainder of the season. Given Brown being out the next few games, Metchie not quite being up to speed, Woods being an older player on a short-term deal, and Collins not really being what everyone thought he could be, it leaves things wide open for Dell to step up.

Playmakers come in all shapes and sizes. Levon Kirkland was a 300-pound middle linebacker in a 3-4. Doug Flutie led teams to playoff wins as a 5'9 quarterback. In football, size matters. The bigger, stronger guys normally win out. When it comes to receiving and returns, you want speed, quickness, and agility. Dell has that in spades. Add his competitive nature and chemistry with his quarterback and you have a recipe for a star in the making. I know I'm not the only one hoping the Texans continue Tank-ing.

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