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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Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

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

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