Sports Specs with Sam

World Series between Astros and Nationals sets up historic pitching match ups



This year’s World Series features a matchup between one team that many expected to make it there all along and another that seemed dead to rights two months into the season. 

The Houston Astros were one of the favorites to represent the American League coming into the 2019 season, as they might have the strongest all-around roster in the game with no major weaknesses in the pitching staff or lineup.

Houston has one of the most lethal starting rotations baseball has seen in recent memory, with three Cy Young Award caliber pitchers in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. Cole especially has looked essentially unhittable so far this postseason. 

The Washington Nationals, on the other hand, were seen as practically out of contention two months into the season, sitting at fourth place in the National League East division with a 19-31 record.

Some even speculated that Washington would sell many of their assets via the trade market (including Max Scherzer) before the July 31 deadline and start a rebuild.

The Nationals proved themselves to be quite resilient and have had an amazing run led by a star-studded pitching staff and a sneaky-good lineup

This pitching staff features a one-two punch in the starting rotation that is one of the best in baseball with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, two excellent pitchers with great extended track records along with Patrick Corbin, who is no slouch.

The pitching matchups between these two groups of starters will be the headline of this series, and whichever teams’ lineup is able to get some offense going early on in the first few games with these star starters on the mound will certainly have the edge in the series. 

Houston has already confirmed that Cole will get the ball in Game 1 on Tuesday, followed by Verlander in Game 2 and more than likely Greinke in Game 3, although he has not performed great so far this postseason or overall in playoff appearances in his career.

Washington has not yet announced their starting rotation, but it is most likely that they will give Scherzer the ball in Game 1 and Strasburg will follow him in the next game.

Washington, unlike Houston, has a pretty shaky bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball in the regular season but has performed surprisingly well in the playoffs so far, which is a huge reason why they have ended up in the World Series unexpectedly. 

Pitching matchups could get a bit dicier after the first three games, as the Astros clinched their World Series birth against the Yankees in Game 6 using a bullpen game featuring seven different relievers and no “traditional starter.”

Even though the Astros have a good bullpen, these games would more than likely give the Nationals’ lineup a greater opportunity to score runs than facing Cole and Verlander, but they still can’t really afford to fall behind 2-0 in the first two games because they will face Cole and Verlander again somewhere in Games 5-7.

Both teams will be relying on getting lots of solid innings from their starters, but if there is one lineup in this series that counted on to give these pitchers a hard time it is the Astros lineup.

 Their lineup filled with star players with World Series experience, like George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa.  (This is the Nationals’ franchise’s first World Series appearance.)

Houston didn’t hit overwhelmingly well in the ALCS against the Yankees, and did most of its damage with home runs, but this lineup will not be intimidated going up against Scherzer, and Strasburg and will likely tee off against the Nationals bullpen at some point.

Washington has performed well offensively this postseason and will hope to continue to ride their best hitters Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto along with their formidable supporting cast to further unexpected success against high quality pitching, like they were able to do against the Dodgers — the National League favorites. 

Houston comes into this series as the heaviest favorites in a World Series since 2007, but time and time again it is proven that anything can happen in the playoffs in baseball, and another upset win for the Nationals this postseason for their first championship does not seem completely out of the question.

Janssen can be reached at [email protected].