It's time for the fall classic
Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: World Series Game 1 Preview
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:
When: Tuesday, 7:08 p.m Central.
Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.
Streaming: Fox Sports App.
Pitching matchup: Cole vs Scherzer.
Series: tied 0-0.
|Date & Time (Central)||Location||Pitching matchup|
|Game 1||Tuesday 10/22, 7:08 PM||Minute Maid Park, Houston TX||Cole vs Scherzer|
|Game 2||Wednesday 10/23, 7:07 PM||Minute Maid Park, Houston TX||Verlander vs Strasburg|
|Game 3||Friday 10/25, 7:07 PM||Nationals Park, Washington D.C.||Greinke+ vs Corbin+|
|Game 4||Saturday 10/26, 7:07 PM||Nationals Park, Washington D.C.||TBD vs TBD|
|Game 5*||Sunday 10/27, 7:07 PM||Nationals Park, Washington D.C.||TBD vs TBD|
|Game 6*||Tuesday, 10/29, 7:07 PM||Minute Maid Park, Houston TX||TBD vs TBD|
|Game 7*||Wednesday 10/30, 7:08 PM||Minute Maid Park, Houston TX||TBD vs TBD|
* If necessary
+ Projected Starters
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.