The 2019 MLB World Series is set as the Washington Nationals, and Houston Astros will start the series tomorrow.
The two clubs took different paths to reach this point.
The Nats got here by winning the National League Wild-Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers, then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the National League Division Series, then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games in the National League Championship Series.
The Astros won the American League West division, then had a fierce American League Division Series in which they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games, and they recently vanquished the New York Yankees in six games in the American League Championship Series.
So let’s preview the 2019 World Series, looking at the starting pitching matchups, the lineups, the bullpen, the keys for each team to win the title, and a prediction of the winner.
The starting pitching alone makes this a must-see World Series as each team has a plethora of arms from the rotation which can dominate.
The probable starters for the first three games, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.
The World Series is set. Astros vs. Nationals, starting Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
Game 1: Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer
Game 2: Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg
Game 3: Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin pic.twitter.com/sgjbJUDxB2
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 20, 2019
Game 1: Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer
Game 2: Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg
Game 3: Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin
The first game has the makings of an instant classic with Cole facing Scherzer.
Cole has dominated opposing teams since the regular season started and has won 19 straight decisions. He’s 3-0 with 0.40 ERA in the postseason.
He’s been lights out for the entire postseason, and the highlight outing during the playoffs was Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees.
He didn’t have his best stuff as he issued five walks, but still tossed seven scoreless innings facing a robust lineup from the Yankees. Cole has been one of the best pitchers in the postseason.
Scherzer is the pitcher you want starting the first game of a crucial series as he’s a bulldog on the mound.
The right-hander can be counted on to keep his team in games, and rarely leaves a start early.
Scherzer has compiled a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched in the postseason, striking out 27 batters, yielding three home runs, throwing 64 % of his pitches for strikes, and limiting the opposition to a .134 batting average.
It wouldn’t be shocking if both Cole and Scherzer each tossed eight scoreless innings in Game 1 as they’re capable of shutting a team down.
The second game features Verlander pitching for the Astros and Strasburg on the mound for the Nationals.
The veteran Verlander has been competent but not terrific in the postseason, as he posted a 3.38 ERA in the ALDS and a 3.95 ERA in the ALCS.
I expect to see a better version of Verlander during the World Series as the big stage won’t be a problem for the veteran.
Strasburg has been mowing down the competition in October, given his 1.64 ERA in four games (three starts) with 33 strikeouts, two home runs yielded, and limiting teams to a .220 average.
Strasburg is reminding everyone that when healthy, he’s one of the best starting pitchers in the MLB.
I would give the edge to Strasburg in this matchup as he’s been more consistent than Verlander in the postseason.
The third game is where things get interesting as former teammates from the Arizona Diamondbacks duel each other.
Greinke is pitching for the Astros and the Nationals counter with Corbin.
Greinke has been hit-or-miss in the postseason for the Astros, as he struggled in the ALDS against the Rays.
He was solid in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees, yielding just three runs in six innings, but failed to complete five innings in his Game 4 outing facing the Yankees again.
The veteran has a career 4.44 ERA in the postseason. The Astros will need Greinke to perform better if they are to be victorious in the series.
Corbin has a 7.43 ERA during the 2019 postseason, but it’s misleading as he surrendered six runs during a relief appearance against the Dodgers during the NLDS.
He’s shown the ability to rack up strikeouts, as indicated by him fanning at least nine batters in two playoff starts this year.
Corbin is a quality starting pitcher and will probably be utilized as a starter and have fewer chances to pitch in relief during the World Series.
The edge in this pitching matchup is a tossup as both pitchers have thrown the ball well at different junctures of the postseason.
The bullpen could be a problem area specifically for the Nats.
If the Nationals have a lead after seven innings, they can hand the ball to Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle to get the last six outs.
The formula works as Doolittle had a 2.70 ERA in the NLDS and a 2.25 ERA in the NLCS. Meanwhile, Hudson has yet to allow a run in 5 2/3 innings in the postseason.
These two pitchers are the most reliable arms in the Nats’ bullpen.
If the Nats are behind or the score is tied late in the game, it could get complicated for the Nats, as they would prefer to use Doolittle and Hudson when they have a lead.
The Astros bullpen isn’t light outs but has pitchers that can get the job done.
They used an opener on Saturdays Game 6 against the Yankees and seven relievers combined to limit the Yankees to four runs.
The standout performer in their bullpen is Will Harris, who hasn’t allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings in the playoffs. They have a young pitcher in Jose Urquidy who can throw multiple innings, very useful if one of the games heads into extra innings.
Their closer Roberto Osuna blew the save during Game 6 of the ALCS, but has been reliable for much of the year.
The lineups for both teams are deadly.
The Nats have a solid combination with third baseman Anthony Rendon and outfielder Juan Soto occupying the third and fourth spots in their batting order, respectively.
Rendon is having a tremendous postseason as he’s compiled a .375 average and 1.059 OPS with one home run and seven RBIs.
Soto is one of the best young players in MLB and is extremely talented.
The individual to watch for the Nats is second baseman Howie Kendrick, who had big hits against the Cardinals in the NLCS.
The Astros will lean on second baseman Jose Altuve to continue what he did during ALCS against the Yankees.
The other players to watch for the Astros are shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley.
They would welcome designated hitter Yordan Alvarez to break out of his slump as he went one-for-22 in the ALCS against the Yankees.
The key for the Nationals to win the series is their pitching continues to be a strength, as they limited the Cardinals to six runs in games during the NLCS.
It would be shocking if they did the same to the Astros as they a better lineup than the Cardinals. The Nats will need their pitching to be strong to have a shot at winning the series.
Speaking of pitching, one player who could have a significant role for them is rookie pitcher Tanner Rainey. He’s someone skipper Dave Martinez can utilize depending on the situation.
Rainey has a plus-plus fastball that reaches triple digits.
Including the playoffs, he’s one of eight pitchers to hit triple-digits at least 20 times this year, per Mike Petriello of MLB.com.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 20, 2019
The weird aspect regarding Rainey is his fastball isn’t his best pitch. Rainey has an elite slider, as he’s generated a 63.1% swing-and-miss rate with his slider.
The Astros will need to continue playing excellent defense as it’s been their calling card since the season started and carried into the playoffs.
The team struggled to hit with runners in scoring position during the ALCS but came up with timely hits.
They will need to continue that trend against the Nats, as pitchers like Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin make few mistakes.
Prediction: Astros win series in seven games, Altuve wins World Series MVP.
- Chris is a 29-year old New Jersey native whose favorite sports team is the Arizona Diamondbacks. He previously attended Western New England College to study Sports Management. Chris has been following the Diamondbacks since he was 12. You can find him on Twitter at @aecanada12.
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