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 Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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