2019 World Series Preview
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Monday, October 21, 2019
On November 1, 2017, the Houston Astros became World Champions for the first time in franchise history.
Fast forward two years and the Astros are four wins away from winning their second title.
Standing in their way? A Washington Nationals team looking to join that elusive club.
The Astros seemed to be a shoo-in to appear in the Fall Classic for the second time in three seasons, after a league-best 107 wins. The Nationals, on the other hand, had a rockier road.
After losing arguably the best player to ever bear their logo in Bryce Harper, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, the Nats had a rough start to the 2019 campaign. On May 23rd, they had an abysmal record of 19-31.
Six weeks later, at the All-Star break, the Nationals had improved to 47-42 and went 46-27 in the latter half of the season to secure themselves a Wild Card meeting with the Milwaukee Brewers (which they won…of course).
So, who has the upper hand?
It’s no secret these two clubs both have stacked starting rotations, which has proved to be of the utmost importance this postseason. For Houston, it’s Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke versus Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin for Washington, all of whom have had some incredible performances over the past few weeks.
That’s not to say, however, that relief pitching won’t play a factor. The trend throughout MLB this year was the use of the super-bullpen and in this department, the Astros have more depth. The Stros pen was third in ERA in the regular season and just won (in Game 6 of the ALCS) a bullpen game over a powerful New York Yankees batting lineup.
Washington’s bullpen finished dead-last in the league in ERA and manager Dave Martinez has relied on Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson to carry the load throughout the playoffs.
Now, we all know that home-field advantage is ideal in basically any sport, but isn’t necessarily the tipping point. However, in the World Series, it becomes a major advantage due to the designated hitter rule differential between the National and American league. The age-old test is roster management and this becomes a significant factor for the road team playing under different rules than they are accustomed to.
In this case, Houston has home-field advantage and the Astros thrive at Minute Maid Park, with a 65-21 record this season. Good thing for the Stros because their overall record historically against the Nats isn’t very good. Since 2011, Washington has won 14 of the last 16 meetings.
This series also brings a unique storyline to the “home-field” aspect, as Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon was born and raised in Houston, Texas and attended Rice College. Rendon’s ties to the city of Houston haven’t waivered; he was even involved in Hurricane Harvey relief back in 2017.
The 29-year-old Rendon has a career .450 batting average at Minute Maid Park and the NL MVP candidate will want to continue that trend throughout the World Series.
His hot corner counterpart, Alex Bregman, had a career-high 41 homeruns and is in the running for AL MVP against league super-star Mike Trout (of the LA Angels).
The battle of the third baseman’s is undoubtedly an exciting storyline, among many others. This Fall Classic has the potential to be as thrilling and as riveting as ever and should not disappoint.
Opening pitch goes Tuesday night in Houston. Enjoy!