So, it turns out that Gerrit Cole is human after all. After being basically untouchable in his first three postseason appearances this year for the Houston Astros, he picked a bad time to look like a mere mortal last night. Cole got blasted for five earned runs through five innings in game one. That is as many runs as he had allowed in his last eight starts combined. The last time that Cole gave up as many as five earned runs in a start? May.
Juan Soto doesn’t get the love that I think that he deserves. We hear a lot about baseball’s youth movement with guys like Cody Bellinger, Vlad Guerrero Jr, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Fernando Tatis Jr getting lots of love from the media. But Soto is just twenty years old himself and just became a World Series hero. If you remember, it was Soto that had the big hit against the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card game, and he came up again huge last night.
Soto tied the game up with a homer in the fourth inning and then drove in two more runs on an RBI double in the fourth. On the night, Soto went 3-4 with three big RBI off of Cole. The young man plays with a lot of fire and passion, and he led his team to the improbable comeback and big win.
Max Scherzer did his part as he settled down after giving up two first inning runs and lasted five innings on 112 pitches. Many wondered what the Nats would do if Scherzer couldn’t get deep into the game, as they have been very hesitant to go to their bullpen so far in the playoffs. And once again, they decided to bring a starter in out of the bullpen instead of a reliever.
Washington turned to listed game three starter Patrick Corbin in the sixth inning, and he came in and retired the side without allowing a run on twenty-one pitches. After Corbin, the Nats had little choice but to turn things over to the real bullpen, and they did struggle as they allowed two runs in three innings, but they were just good enough, as the Nats held on for the 5-4 win, stealing home field advantage and taking the series lead.
It is hard to overstate just how big of a win that was for Washington as most people didn’t think they had any shot at beating Cole in Houston. Even with their own Cy Young Award winner in Scherzer on the mound, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Houston would win the game. Now the entire series is changed as it is Washington in the driver’s seats trying to win their first-ever World Series title. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in Houston and look for value in game two of the World Series!
The Houston Astros all the sudden find themselves in a must-win spot tonight at home in game two of the World Series. After dropping game one, the Astros must-win tonight, as history tells us that a team that loses the first two games at home in a seven-game series just won’t be able to recover from it. For Washington, they have a great chance to put the Astros backs against the wall in game two and take a commanding lead in the series.
Starting for the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg (18-6 3.32 ERA), and for the Astros it is Justin Verlander (21-6 2.58 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven runs. The Astros are +165 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
When the starting pitchers were announced for this series, game two stuck out as the one that I saw the Nationals as having their best chance to steal in Houston. Why? Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has been absolutely amazing in the postseason so far for Washington, and similarly to Scherzer, has been called on to take on many roles. He has pitched out of the bullpen, on short rest, and as a starter, and has shined.
This postseason he is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in four appearances, and the Nationals have won every time he has pitched. He pitches tonight on nine days rest, meaning I think they will keep him in the game as long as he can be effective. He has allowed one earned run or less in three out of his four playoff appearances, and I see him being great again tonight. There is just something about the big stage that brings out the best in Strasburg as his lifetime ERA in the playoffs is a stellar 1.10 in seven appearances.
Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in the American League this regular season. He led the league in several statistical categories, and it is neck and neck between him and Cole for who will take home the AL Cy Young Award this year. But in the playoffs, he has been, how can I say this? Average? It is not that he has been bad, he has mostly been decent, he just hasn’t been the lockdown shut you out guy that the Astros were hoping he would be.
In the playoffs, he is 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA. And that one win came in his first playoff start against the Twins. In his last three starts, he has pitched seventeen and two-thirds of an inning and has allowed ten earned runs. That includes giving up five home runs. If Verlander stumbles tonight, the Astros may not be able to recover.
Are the Nationals a team of destiny this season? It sure seems like it. After starting the season out 19-31, they have been one of the best teams in baseball ever since. And they are built for the playoffs with elite starting pitching, timely hitting, and great defense. If they had a reliable bullpen, they would have been the favorites in the National League this season. It seems like every night there is a new hero for Washington. Whether it is Soto, Howie Kendrick, Ryan Zimmerman, or Anthony Rendon, a new guy steps up every night. Who will it be tonight?
I think the Nats win this game and this series. Last night showed me that they aren’t scared of good starting pitching and that they can win on the road. The bullpen does scare me, but Doolittle has been strong, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Corbin come out of the bullpen again and get bumped for Anibal Sanchez, who has very quietly been great this postseason, in game three. The Nationals have shown all postseason long that they are willing to do whatever it will take to win games, and I think they do that again tonight in Houston. Give me the Washington Nationals as big road underdogs tonight in game two of the World Series!