By Logan Perrone
Following 2,430 regular season games and three rounds of nail-biting postseason play, the stage has been set for this year’s Fall Classic. The American League champion Houston Astros are heading back to the World Series for the second time in three years; the National League champion Washington Nationals are taking their first crack at a world title. While both teams have gotten to this point with stellar pitching, their paths to this point have been drastically different.
For Houston, a postseason run was highly anticipated at the start of the 2019 campaign. The Astros have dominated the American League West in recent memory, winning the division the previous two seasons and claiming the franchise’s first title in 2017. They boasted an MLB best 107-55 record and sent six players to the All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Offensively, the Astros had the best average in baseball at .274, scoring 920 runs on 1538 hits. The team also had at least one player rank in the top five for average, home runs and runs batted in. However, Houston would not have had the success they had if not for their pitching. The juggernaut rotation featuring Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and mid-season acquisition Zack Greinke was dominant all season, with Cole leading all of baseball with 326 strikeouts and Verlander, who recorded a no-hitter in September, not far behind with an even 300.
For Washington, a postseason run, let alone a World Series berth, was not a given at the start of the season. After the first 50 games of the season, the Nationals held an ugly 19-31 record, sat fourth in the NL East race and had less than a 1% chance of winning the pennant. They would finish the season 93-69, clinching a postseason berth. They would go on to beat the Brewers with a late rally in the Wild Card, topple the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a five game NLDS and sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
The Nationals had one of the most underrated offenses in 2019. The team lead the NL in Ks, only striking out 1308 times while also walking 584 times, as well as in on-base percentage at .342. Led by MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, the lineup featured both strong young hitters such as Juan Soto and seasoned veterans like Howie Kendrick. With regards to pitching, Washington has four strong starters in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.
The Houston rotation, one of the best in recent memory, is set to face a red-hot Nationals lineup, while the Washington rotation will see an Astros lineup that underproduced in the ALCS. Still, the Astros are an overwhelming favorite to win the series. Houston is currently at -235 odds to clinch their second title in three years, marking one of the most incredible three-year runs in baseball history. Meanwhile, Washington sits as the largest underdog to win the series in over a decade at +195 odds to clinch their first World Series title. If the Nationals can pull off the upset, it would be one of the most historic single-season turnarounds by any team ever.
The series begins tonight, with first pitch set for 8:08 p.m. ET on Fox as Garret Cole goes against Max Scherzer in Houston.
Edited by Emma Moloney | email@example.com