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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Nats-Astros World Series Prediction and Preview

The fall classic is officially here and the matchup is one that very few people could have predicted once the postseason began. The National League is represented by the Washington Nationals who will face off with the American League Western division champs: the Houston Astros.

The Astros did not have an easy road to get here as they went to five games with the Tampa Bay Rays in the Divisional Series. Following that nail-biter was a grind-it-out six game series with the New York Yankees in the ALCS where Houston needed two walk-offs including a pennant-clinching two-run home run from Jose Altuve in game six.

From the National League comes the team from the nation’s capital. Hard to believe that the Nationals would be this close to a championship after losing their star Bryce Harper to Philadelphia and being 19-31 at the end of May. Washington has been the Cinderella story of the playoffs coming from the wild-card game beating the Milwaukee Brewers, upsetting the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional series three games to two, and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

Houston has gotten back to what made them World Champions back in 2017: dominant pitching to compliment a dangerous lineup. No one has been greater on the mound than Gerritt Cole, who before game one on Tuesday, had not lost a game since May 22 and had a postseason record of 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA. Entering the playoffs, Cole finished 20-5 and led the league in ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326). Behind Cole are former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Zack Grienke who have created one of the most powerful rotations in the entire league. And it doesn’t get any easier once you get past the starter; Will Harris has yet to be touched in his 6.2 innings pitched over his eight appearances along with Joe Smith. If Roberto Osuna can get even better as the Astros closer, Houston has a chance to grab their second title in three years.

One could argue though that Houston has the second-best rotation behind the three powerful arms of the Nationals. Led by the three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who arguably has been the best pitcher over the last five years. Scherzer has been undefeated in the playoffs so far with a 2.16 ERA and has remained the number one option for D.C. in clutch scenarios. Behind him is Stephen Strasburg, who just like his teammate Scherzer, is undefeated, but with a lower ERA at 1.64. Those two lead the way for a bullpen that has been much better than their league-worst 5.66 ERA in the playoffs. Hard to believe a team could go the distance with that kind of bullpen production, but Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, and the rest of the relievers have saved their best outings for the perfect time.

In terms of hitting, the Astros have a ton of familiar faces from their championship team two years ago, but it’s been Jose Altuve, not Alex Bregman, who’s been leading the charge. Much like 2017, Altuve has hit for five home runs and led the team for a .333 postseason batting average. However, Altuve and offseason acquisition Michael Brantley are the only consistent Astro who are hitting over .260 right now. George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Yordan Alvarez have been struggling and are still looking for their mojo at the plate. With the defense playing phenomenal, if the bats can come alive at the right times, the Astros will reign once again at the top of the MLB.

For the Nationals, many wondered what would the team become without a superstar like Harper, but they have found a new one in Juan Soto. The young outfielder became the youngest player to bat cleanup in a World Series game and what does he do? He drives in three runs and hits a home run in game one. Along with Soto are established veterans Anthony Rendon (who will most likely get a large contract when he becomes a free agent this offseason) and Ryan Zimmerman. Rendon has matched the Altuve of Houston with a .333 postseason batting average as well. This offense has been raking as of late leading all playoff teams with a .244 batting average and forty-eight runs-batted-in. The Nationals get so many opportunities to hit that it’s been the most effective part of their playoff run.

It’s amazing to think that the Astros are overwhelming favorites heading into the World Series based on the fact that the Nationals won fourteen less games than them. Houston has been the most consistent team over the past three or four years, but Washington has fate on their side and could pull off one of the most immaculate runs in recent postseason memory. No matter what the odds, this is sure to be a fun series to crown the champions of baseball for the 2019 season.

Final Prediction: My instincts are telling me the Nationals can do this after their 5-4 win in game one, but I don’t see them beating Cole twice. Houston will bounce back and get another title under their belts. ASTROS IN SEVEN.

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