By: Thomas Burns
The Houston Astros finished the year with 107 wins, the most in the league this season. The Washington Nationals turned a 19-31 start into an eventual Wild Card slot, and have now found themselves in the World Series.
With Game 1 in the books, let’s break down who has the edge for the remainder of the series, and why the Nationals might have a better shot than most people think at taking home their first championship in franchise history. But will they?
The Nationals bullpen is absolutely awful. There is no other way to put it. In a year where nearly every bullpen in baseball is struggling, the Nationals had the worst relieving staff in baseball, recording a 5.66 ERA.
Closer Sean Doolittle, the cornerstone of this bullpen, has seen his ERA of 1.60 in 2018 balloon to 4.05 this year. Washington has had some elite performances by their starting pitching and some explosive performances by their offense, but the bullpen will need to step up if they look to lock-up this talented Houston lineup.
The Nationals are waiting to name a starter for Game 3 and don’t be surprised if you see Patrick Corbin, the third man in the rotation, eat up some innings out of the bullpen.
Edge: Houston Astros
Every baseball fan is salivating over the pitching match-ups we are slated to see in this series. Four of the best pitchers in baseball are set to take the mound.
There is not much I can say about these guys that hasn’t already been said. When they are dealing, they are simply untouchable. I have a feeling that Stephen Strasburg is gonna going to out-pitch Justin Verlander in Game 2 and send the Nationals back to Washington with some serious momentum.
If Corbin is good to go in Game 3, I would give him the advantage over the struggling Zack Greinke. If Corbin is used in relief, the Nationals are likely to call on Aníbal Sánchez, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning last outing.
Either way, I’m going to give Washington the edge when it comes to starting pitching.
Edge: Washington Nationals
The Astros are certainly more talented, but something about the Nationals lineup is scrappy. For example, Howie Kendrick, a 36-year-old veteran, hit .333 with 4 RBI in four games against the St. Louis Cardinals, earning himself NLCS MVP.
The Nationals always seem to find a guy who can come through in the clutch for them.
Although the bats went a bit silent during the ALCS for the Astros, they still hit for the same amount of power, and this lineup is just too skillful to stay cold.
Expect Alex Bregman to come out of his slump and for Jose Altuve to continue the postseason tear that he has been on. Altuve hit .349 prior to the World Series with five home runs, one of which eliminated the New York Yankees from the playoffs. He’s a threat to do serious damage every time he steps in the box.
What really interests me is the fact that the Washington has seen some fairly competitive pitching this postseason between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, while Houston has not faced a true ace yet.
The Nationals could very well steals two out of the first three, but their lackluster bullpen puts them at a severe disadvantage down the stretch. In the later games of this series, I expect the Nationals starters to run out of steam, and the Astros to feast on this meek Nationals bullpen.
Cover photo via: Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports
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