What better way to kick off baseball’s two-day hiatus than by looking ahead to the upcoming Fall Classic? This year’s World Series feels like something of a throwback, featuring three powerhouse starting pitching matchups to get things going. It’s hard to imagine a better sextet of starters from two teams than Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke on one end, with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin on the other.
The Astros figure enter the Series as the odds-on favorite. Houston won an MLB-best 107 games in the regular season compared to Washington’s 93. Houston’s +280 run differential was also the league’s best, again significantly better than the Nationals’ still-strong +149 mark. The Astros unquestionably boast a stronger bullpen than their D.C. counterparts, and their lineup, for all their struggles in the ALCS, was among the best of all-time in the regular season.
All that said, there are reasons one might reasonably expect an upset, even beyond the vagaries somewhat inherent in short series. The Nationals are probably the better defensive team, last night’s glove show by Houston notwithstanding, with Víctor Robles perhaps baseball’s best defensive outfielder. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto can go toe-to-toe with any duo in the Astros’ order.
Most importantly, though, any Nationals’ optimism is rooted in the nature of the short series. Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin could (and probably would) start six of the seven games for Washington should this Series go the distance. No one’s surprised any time the Nats fly a curly W when any of those three take the mound. The Nats’ pitching depth (most notably in middle relief and setup work) was the club’s Achilles heel during the regular season. Yet the postseason’s heavy dose of off days has allowed manager Dave Martinez to leverage his top arms. To this point, Washington hasn’t felt any ill effects for essentially deploying a six-man pitching staff (the aforementioned trio of starters, fourth starter Aníbal Sánchez, and top relievers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson). With six days off between NLCS Game 4 and Tuesday night’s Game 1, Washington’s arms should be more than ready to empty the tank one final time.
So, MLBTR readers, we turn things over to you. Will the Astros cement themselves as a dynasty by winning their second World Series in a span of three 100-win seasons? Or will the Nationals’ three aces pitch their way to Washington’s first World Series parade since the Coolidge administration?
(poll link for app users)