It's time for the fall classic

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

Gerrit Cole
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The red-hot Gerrit Cole will be on the mound in World Series Game 1

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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros got their first look at closer Josh Hader. Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images.

The Houston Astros are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season and one of the hottest topics of conversation revolves around the club's new closer, Josh Hader.

Hader was signed to a 5-year, $95 million contract this offseason, cementing the Astros 'pen as one of the best in baseball. Houston is no stranger to having a dominant closer, with Ryan Pressly taking the ball in the ninth inning for the last several years.

But now with Pressly moving to a role as setup man, and Bryan Abreu ready to shut teams down in the seventh inning, the Astros can shorten games with their elite arms.

So what are the first impressions of Hader?

According to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, Alex Bregman said, “he looked great.”'

Below, you can watch Bregman taking some swings against him.

As you can see from the video, Hader didn't allow any hard contact to the Astros superstar third baseman.

Jeremy Pena and Jon Singleton also had the opportunity to face Hader. According to McTaggart, Pena said, “I'm glad he's on our team.”

So are we, Jeremy, so are we!

And speaking of Pena, we got our first glimpse of what his new swing looks like. He made good contract against Ryan Pressly on Monday.

A bounce-back season from Pena would pay huge dividends for the Astros lineup. His drastic loss of power from 2022 to 2023 had many fans and media scratching their heads. He hit 12 less home runs in 2023 while playing in 14 more games that season.

For a more in-depth look at how Pena is overhauling his swing, check out Chandler Rome's column above. From what is being reported by Rome, the adjustments are still a work in progress. Especially the footwork. But overall, Astros manager Joe Espada is encouraged by what he's seeing from Pena so far this spring.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome