World Series media day gave us a bit of a look behind the curtain at the planning that is going into the early portion of this year’s series. We still don’t have full and final 25-man rosters for the Astros and Nationals, but their respective managers did discuss a few major tactical decisions that have already been made. Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com and Jake Kaplan of The Athletic were among those to cover the festivities; all links below are to their Twitter feeds.
- There aren’t any surprises in terms of the initial pitching plans. The Nationals will roll out a rested Max Scherzer for the first game tomorrow night. As a prize for eliminating the Yankees in six games, rather than taking it to a seventh, the Astros will be able to counter with their top option in Gerrit Cole. The second match-up of the series will be just as compelling, with the Nats starting Stephen Strasburg and the ’Stros going with Justin Verlander.
- After that? You might presume that each team will turn to its third starter — in each case, a hurler that would feature as an ace on quite a few other staffs around the game. Houston manager A.J. Hinch committed to utilizing mid-season trade acquisition Zack Greinke to open game three. But D.C. skipper Davey Martinez says he’s not going to name a starter yet for the first contest back in the nation’s capital. Does that mean that southpaw Patrick Corbin might be utilized in relief in Houston, as he has on several occasions already in the postseason? Martinez said we’ll just have to wait and see how things unfold.
- It remains to be seen whether either team will end up utilizing a fourth starter to open any contests. The Nats can perhaps have some added confidence in Anibal Sanchez after watching him nearly no-hit the Cardinals in the NLCS, though tip-toeing through an exceptionally potent Astros lineup would be another thing entirely for the wily veteran. It’ll also be a wait-and-see situation for the Houston organization, with Hinch saying Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, or some other pitcher could be tapped to open a game that will likely feature quite a few pitching changes.
- The availability of a designated hitter slot will open some opportunities for the Nats in games one and two. The club is planning to place veteran Howie Kendrick in the bat-only slot, Martinez suggested. Kendrick has stung the ball all year long and thrived in big situations in October, but he has also hurt the Nationals with the glove at times. Meanwhile, Hinch says the Astros will be sticking with young slugger Yordan Alvarez — at least for the first two contests. Whether or not he’ll be installed in left field once the series moves to D.C. could depend upon who’s starting game three — and whether Alvarez can break out of the 1-for-24, 12-strikeout skid he left in the championship series.
- In terms of a formal roster announcement, that isn’t yet available. The Astros, in particular, are waiting until the last possible moment. The club believes that excellent reliever Ryan Pressly will be good to go after dealing with a knee injury in the ALCS. But it’ll hold off on making the final call until checking on his condition tomorrow. Both teams figure to rely heavily upon their core players throughout the series. Each could go in a variety of directions with a few of the final roster spots — those players that may not end up being used much at all, but could end up being thrust into major roles at key junctures.