So who will be the kings of the diamond?
Major League Baseball has reached its climax. The World Series begins Tuesday, with the American League-champion Houston Astros taking on the National League-champion Washington Nationals. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series begins at 5:08 p.m. (Pacific time) Tuesday in Houston.
And this year’s version of the fall classic pits a pair of teams who arrived at this point in contrasting manners.
Houston is the team attempting to create a modern-day dynasty. The Astros won the World Series in 2017, were a playoff team in 2018, then posted the best record in baseball this season when they went 107-55.
Houston sports a roster that’s star-stuffed from top to bottom, featuring a potent offense led by the homegrown quartet of Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa. The Astros also have what many consider to be the best trio of starting pitchers in the majors in Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Claim a second world championship in three years and this Houston team will go down as one of the greatest in baseball history.
Washington, on the other hand, is hoping to defy history. Washington has been one of the nation’s longest-suffering baseball cities. The city’s previous franchise, the Senators, won only one World Series during its existence from 1901-60, that coming way back in 1924. Meanwhile, the city’s current franchise has been one of baseball’s most disappointing in recent years, often expected to be a contender only to fall short of expectations.
However, the Nationals have been the definition of defiant this season. Washington saw star outfielder Bryce Harper defect to Philadelphia, then went further than it ever did with him. The Nationals started the season 19-31, but rallied themselves into a wild-card spot, and Washington was baseball’s hottest team coming into the postseason, having won eight straight. The Nationals may not have the same offensive firepower as the Astros, but in Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto they have elite middle-of-the-order bats, while Trea Turner and Adam Eaton are a pair of capable table setters. And in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin they have the only starting trio in the majors that can match Houston’s.
Indeed, Washington has that destiny feeling about it. The Nationals staged a thrilling comeback to beat Milwaukee in the wild-card game. They upset the NL-favorite Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series, again staging a stunning late-game comeback in the decisive Game 5. Then Washington blew through the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-game sweep in the National League Championship Series, giving the Nationals a full week to prepare for the World Series.
Houston, meanwhile, has been tested at every turn in the postseason. The Astros needed a full five games to overcome the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series. Then Houston endured a six-game, no-holds-barred battle with the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, with Altuve’s dramatic ninth-inning, walk-off homer in Saturday’s Game 6 sending the Astros to the World Series.
Both teams will face obstacles in the World Series they have yet to endure in the postseason. Washington’s bullpen was an absolute disaster during the regular season, but the Nationals have overcome that in the postseason mostly by not using it. Washington’s starters not only have gone deep into games, they’ve also pitched important innings in relief. Can Washington beat the Astros without exposing it’s shaky bullpen. Meanwhile, Houston will have to play Games 3, 4 and 5 without the designated hitter. Rookie Yordan Alvarez was a dominating DH during the regular season, meaning the Astros will be without one of their big left-handed bats for important games (though Alvarez has struggled mightily during the postseason so far). Will that hinder Houston’s offense?
So who you got? Dynasty vs. destiny. Make your prediction here: