It's winner-take-all for the World Series

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 7 Preview

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The 2019 World Series has been nothing short of a roller coaster for both fanbases. For the Nationals, you come in red-hot and take the first two games against Houston's best pitchers at Minute Maid Park and look like you may cruise to the series win.

But then come the Astros, who go into D.C. and take all three games on the road and push the series back to Houston where they'll have Justin Verlander on the mound for Game 6. Washington responds, dominating the Astros in their house once again, and here we sit, with one last game of the 2019 MLB season to decide who will take home the Commissioner's Trophy. Here is a preview of Game 7:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, TX.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Greinke vs. Scherzer.

Series: tied 3-3.

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 6Nationals 7, Astros 2Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (L) vs Strasburg (W)
Game 7Wednesday 10/30, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke vs Scherzer

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

It all comes down to this

It's something sports fans love to hear: Game 7. While both of these teams would have liked to win the series in a more dominating fashion in fewer games, the fact remains that they have one game in front of them to go out and win to seal the deal. Both teams have reason to be confident. The Astros know what their offense can do on a good night, and have faith in their bullpen to back up Zack Greinke.

The Nationals can see themselves as favorites in this one, too, because they have a supposedly healthy Max Scherzer going to the bump, and their offense has been on fire in the three games at Minute Maid Park to this point. There are nearly endless ways that this game plays out where either team wins, and it's hard to say which side is truly the favorite. So, in those situations, you take away the intangibles and look strictly at the potential and matchup on paper, and in my opinion, I give the advantage to the Astros.

Can the home team win the one that counts?

So far in this World Series, we've seen something unprecedented, which is the road team winning the first six games. The Nationals have Max Scherzer on the mound to finish the sweep and make it all seven games. Houston will send out Zack Greinke, who, despite some playoff struggles, is still an elite arm and can get the job done. It's almost fitting that the Astros will have their season on the line with the guy they made the biggest splash to get in this year's trade deadline. If there were ever a time for Greinke to show he was worth the investment, this is it.

One key, in my opinion, of the Astros ending the road-team streak: keeping the crowd in it. One obvious way is to get early runs and hold on to a lead throughout the game. Should the Nationals score first, though, and try to take the air out of the stadium, it will be up to Houston to give the faithful at Minute Maid Park some reasons to make the home-field advantage worth winning, which is a loud, rowdy crowd that can lift the team up in some crucial spots. Part of that could be how A.J. Hinch manages a potential chess match. Will Gerrit Cole come in from the bullpen? Could we see Roberto Osuna come in for more than three outs of there's a tight game late? It will be fun to watch.

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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