It's time for the fall classic

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 1 Preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After an incredible series full of drama and highs and lows with the Yankees, the Astros were able to finish off the series with a series-ending home run by Jose Altuve, eliminating the Yankees and pushing Houston to their second World Series in three years. They will face the Washington Nationals, the once unlikely prediction to win the National League pennant and make it to the series.

While the AL side of the playoffs ended as many would have expected, with the Yankees and Astros going toe-to-toe in a lengthy series, the NL side was surprising, mostly at the hand of these Nationals. In the National League Wild Card Game, Washington stunned the Brewers with a come-from-behind win with a huge three-run eighth inning. Then, in the NLDS, the Nationals were the surprise winners against the Dodgers, the favorites to advance to the World Series. They rode that momentum into the NLCS, dominating the Cardinals for a four-game sweep.

Still, though the Nationals have had a momentous road to reach the World Series, they are underdogs to the Astros who have been regarded as the best team in the league most of the 2019 season. Anything can happen in a seven-game series, though, so let's take a look at Game 1:

Game Facts

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

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Cole vs Scherzer.

Series: tied 0-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Tuesday 10/22, 7:08 PMMinute 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 Corbin+
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

The first of several compelling pitching matchups

If you enjoy watching some of the best pitchers of this era of MLB history go against each other, then this series is for you. The Astros will have Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke, while the Nationals will bring out Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. It sets up to be a potentially low-scoring series, and that starts in the Game 1 showdown between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer.

Let's start with Scherzer. So far this postseason, he has a 1.80 ERA, which is only as high as that because of a disappointing three-run, five-inning performance in the Wild Card Game. Since then, he has allowed just one run over fifteen innings of work, one inning out of the bullpen then two seven-inning starts. He last pitched in NLCS Game 2 on October 12th, where he had one of his best starts of the season, a seven-inning shutout affair with eleven strikeouts. He will be on extended rest and will look to repeat the success of that last start.

Then there's Gerrit Cole. As has been stated several times by many, the last time he lost a game was on May 22nd. We're talking about five months that the Astros have gotten dominant start after start from Cole, and that includes the postseason. In three starts, he has an incredible 0.40 ERA after allowing just one run in ALDS Game 5 on a solo home run to the Rays. His last start was on October 15th in ALCS Game 3 against the Yankees, where he went seven shutout innings in the win, moving him to 3-0 in the playoffs. He has gone at least seven innings and surpassed 100 pitches in each of the three starts, and has shown no signs of slowing down. He will be on two extra days of rest come Tuesday and looking to continue one of the hottest streaks by a pitcher, ever.

Two different rest periods could impact the game

As mentioned earlier, the Nationals surprised many by dominating their way to an NLCS sweep. They last played on October 15th, meaning they will have had a week of rest leading up to Game 1. While that may benefit bullpen pitchers who will relish the extra time to rest their arms, it does have the potential for starting pitchers and batters to be slow out the gate as their natural rhythm and schedule is thrown off from the delay between games.

Conversely, the Astros will have two days of rest to prepare for the World Series. Jose Altuve's series-ending home run, which will be a highlight in Houston sports for years to come, came late on Saturday night and ended three-straight days of games including a trip from New York late Friday, early Saturday that they had to recover from to play Saturday night. ALCS Game 6 was also a bullpen day where Houston used seven pitchers out of their bullpen to complete the game.

Rolling straight into the World Series after having such a motivational end to the ALCS can be a massive benefit to Houston, though, too. Also, avoiding a Game 7 allows them to work with their starters in a mostly desired order with Cole going on extra rest in Game 1 and Justin Verlander on regular rest in Game 2. It will be an intriguing layer of the game to see if it takes time for the Nationals to ramp up and if the Astros show any sign of fatigue. In any case, the Astros will have the benefit of home-field advantage and are the favorites to take Game 1 and the entire series.

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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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