Houston can wrap up the World Series on Tuesday

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 6 Preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
After losing the first two games of the World Series at home disappointingly, many were rightly questioning if there would be any more games played in Houston this season. Three games later, and the Astros have regained their momentum and once again look like the 107-win team that earned them the home-field advantage. Now they get to use it, getting a chance to clinch in Game 6, or 7 if necessary, at home. Tuesday's Game 6 will also be an opportunity for Justin Verlander to lift his team and notch another achievement of his own. Here is a breakdown of the game:

Game Facts

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

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, TX.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Verlander vs. Strasburg.

Series: Astros lead 3-2.

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 3Astros 4, Nationals 1Nationals Park, Washington D.C.Greinke (ND) vs Sanchez (L)
Game 4Astros 8, Nationals 1Nationals Park, Washington D.C.Urquidy (W) vs Corbin (L)
Game 5Astros 7, Nationals 1Nationals Park, Washington D.C.Cole (W) vs Ross (L)
Game 6Tuesday, 10/29, 7:07 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Strasburg
Game 7*Wednesday 10/30, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke vs Sanchez+

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

With the DH back in play, Houston's offense needs to score early and often again

Although they didn't seem to miss a step without it, the Astros will be back in their AL ballpark for Game 6, which means they don't have to lose a position spot to get Yordan Alvarez in the lineup. They'll be able to put him back in his usual DH spot, getting a full-strength nine-bat order that will make them even more dangerous than the team that outscored Washington 19-3 over the last three games.

No matter the lineup or order of it, Houston will need to try and replicate the early-game success they had in Washington, scoring runs early to take control of the game and keep the Nationals out of reach. It will be a tough task going up against Stephen Strasburg, but this historic offense is also nearly matchup-proof. Look for a big game from Jose Altuve, who loves to light a spark in these big-moment games.

Verlander needs to learn from Cole and notch another milestone

Okay, not necessarily literally. However, Gerrit Cole was terrific in Game 5, rebounding from his disappointing loss in Game 1 to keep the Astros rolling and finish his incredible season on a high note. Justin Verlander will be looking to do the same in Game 6, erasing the memory of his Game 2 loss to keep his team in the game to potentially finish the series.

While a lengthy outing would be welcome by Houston, considering they only had to use two bullpen arms on Sunday, then had the day off on Monday, the bullpen will be ready to back Verlander up should he need to come out earlier than usual. He will likely be hoping to go at least five innings and leave with a lead, however, because he's still in search of joining another exclusive list: pitchers to earn a win in a World Series game. Verlander has started 6 World Series games in his career, including Game 2 this year, and is 0-5 in those. Getting his first victory in the biggest stage would also mean that his team gets to do something for the first time...

A chance to finish in front of the home crowd

While the 2017 World Series win will always the sweetest since it was the first for the franchise, the 2019 Astros have a chance to do something the team two years ago didn't: win it at Minute Maid Park. While the series did not go down as quickly as initially expected by many with Houston making easy work of Washington, that does provide a silver lining should the Astros take care of business at home in Game 6. Not only will the crowd be roaring and ready to go from the first pitch, if they can cheer their team on to the World Series win, but they will also blow the roof, which will be closed, right off.

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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