After the juiced ball dominated the regular season, it seems ironically fitting that the World Series will be decided on the mound. The league’s two hottest teams face off in a highly anticipated Fall Classic kicking off Tuesday night.
Statistically speaking, the Astros offense rivals that of the 1927 Yankees and their pitching staff is rock-solid. They won 107 games in the regular season and have been championship favorites for the majority of the year. Long and short of it, the Astros are a force.
On the other side, we have the Nationals who recovered from their 19-31 start to win 81 of their next 121 games and advance to the World Series. They were outs away from losing the Wild Card game to the Brewers and then spanked the Dodgers and Cardinals to advance to their franchise’s first World Series. The Nationals seem like a team of destiny.
These teams have eerily similar pieces. First overall pick aces (Cole and Strasburg), multi-Cy Young Winners (Scherzer and Verlander), former teammates (Corbin and Greinke | Scherzer, Sanchez, and Verlander), MVP performing third-basemen (Bregman and Rendon), and super young talent (Yordan Alvarez and Juan Soto).
If any team can keep up with the 1-2 punch of Cole and Verlander (2.10 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 47 innings), it is the Nationals with Strasburg and Scherzer (1.71 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 42 innings). Additionally, the Nationals arms don’t stop there. Their big four pitching staff with Corbin and Sanchez have accounted for a 2.04 ERA in 10 games this postseason.
I think the Nationals have the edge in pitching depth and the Astros take the advantage in offensive firepower and depth. So far in the playoffs, the Nationals have limited their bullpen use to primarily Doolittle and Hudson. If they are forced to use more arms in the bullpen, I think the Nats could be in trouble.
The Nationals have proved that they have the ability to manufacture runs and hit well with runners in scoring position. That needs to continue for them to compete in this series. The Astros have seen contributions this postseason from the top to bottom of their lineup.
Key performers offensively for each team include:
Astros: Bregman, Altuve, Alvarez, Gurriel, Springer
Nationals: Rendon, Turner, Soto, Eaton, Kendrick
I think Strasburg and Scherzer can split their four games against Verlander and Cole. That puts Corbin and Sanchez against Zack Greinke and Houston’s bullpen. I think the Nationals hold the edge in these games and take the series in six games.
I think the MVP goes to Anthony Rendon, the league’s most underrated player (who is about to get PAID). He collects a few clutch hits and RBIs to make the difference in this pitcher’s duel of a series.
Most importantly: Bryce Harper keeps his promise…