World Series: Astros Just Too Much For Nationals
The last time the Houston Astros won the World Series was two years ago. The last time a team from Washington won the World Series was in 1924.
That was the American League's Washington Senators. The Washington Nationals, who joined the National League as the expansion Montreall Expos in 1969, have never previously played in the World Series. The Expos relocated to the U.S. capital in 2005.
Washington is the 13th Wild Card team to reach the World Series. The Nationals will be looking to join the 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins, 2002 Anaheim Angels, 2004 Boston Red Sox, 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and 2014 San Francisco Giants as Wild Card teams that won the Fall Classic.
Bovada lists the Astros as -225 favorites in the odds to win the World Series. The Nationals are +180 underdogs. That's the most sizable odds placed upon a World Series favorite since the Red Sox were -240 to defeat the Colorado Rockies in 2007. Boston went on to sweep that series.
Some key points to consider before wagering on the series:
- Houston won an MLB-leading 107 games
- Washington was +1700 to win the World Series at the start of the season
- The Astros, who are 5-1 at home in the postseason, own home-field advantage
- The Nationals had never won a playoff series prior to this season
- Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at Houston's Minute Maid Park
For Starters, What Pitching
Old-school baseball purists are salivating at the notion of watching these two starting rotations go head-to-head. The top five finishers in the major leagues in strikeouts this season are all pitching in this series, which makes the starting pitcher edge in the World Series picks a toss up.
Houston's Gerrit Cole (358) and Justin Verlander (329), Washington's Stephen Strasburg (284), Max Scherzer (270) and Patrick Corbin (264) comprise this list of five big hurlers. As well, Houston has 18-game winner Zack Greinke in its rotation, while the Nats also boast of Anibal Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA in 2013.
Cole has won his last 19 decisions. He's not lost a game since May 22. Verlander won an MLB-leading 21 games. In 2011, he earned AL Cy Young Award and MVP honors.
Greinke won the AL Cy Young in 2009. Scherzer owns three Cy Youngs. He won it in the AL with the Detroit Tigers and captured two NL awards since joining the Nationals.
Verlander (first), Cole (fifth), Straburg (sixth) and Scherzer (ninth) all finished among the top 10 in wins above replacement for pitchers this season.
A Nationals Turnaround
When 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper bolted the Nationals as a free agent last winter and signed with the NL East Division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies, the good times were supposed to be over for Washington.
The Nats won four division titles between 2012-17 but never got past the NL Divisional Series.
The early returns seemed to indicate that the predicted downturn was indeed in order. Washington launched the season 19-31 and no one was talking about the Nationals in the 2019 World Series odds.
That's when they engineered a magical turnaround. Washington posted the best record in the NL (74-38) over the remaining 102 games to finish 93-69 and earn the first of two NL Wild Card playoff spots.
In the NL Wild Card game, the Nats rallied from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers to win 4-3.
In the decisive fifth game of the NLDS against the two-time defending NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nats trailed 3-1.
A pair of solo homers on consecutive pitches sent the game to extra innings, where Washington's Howie Kendrick pounded a grand slam for a 7-3 triumph.
Astros Up In The Stratopshere
It's been a magical ride for the Astros. They took sole possession of first place in the AL West on April 28 and never relinquished it.
Houston pitchers posted the most strikeouts in baseball (1,671) and Astros batters struck out the fewest times of any team (1,166). Houston's pitching staff was second in WHIP (1.130) and third in ERA (3.66).
At the plate, the Astros were No. 1 in the majors in batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.352), slugging percentage (.495) and OPS (.848). Houston scored 920 runs and clouted 288 home runs, both third in all of baseball.
They catch the ball, too. Houston was second in baseball with a .988 fielding percentage. the Astros committed 71 errors, second-fewest in the majors.
Individually, Cole and Verlander, who threw a no-hitter this season, are the top two contenders for the AL Cy Young. Third baseman Alex Bregman is in the hunt for the AL MVP.
Bregman slugged 41 homers. George Springer hit 39. Jose Altuve, whose walkoff homer won the ALCS, clouted 31, as did Yuil Gurriel. Michael Brantley (22) and Carlos Correa (21) were both over 20 homers.
The Astros simply have too many arms, and too much firepower to be stopped. They are the overwhelming favorite in the 2019 World Series odds.
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