‘October Classic’ Could Be Classic

Good pitching beats good hitting, so the old adage goes, and this year it seems especially true…although neither the Astros or Nationals are lacking in hitting, they’ve pitched their way into the World Series.

Sports Illustrated report that Houston are the biggest favorites, based on Las Vegas odds, since Boston in 2004. That was the year the Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” and swept Colorado to win their first championship in living memory.

We have to agree. Washington, in the Series for the first time ever, have been something of an underdog sensation making it into the playoffs at the last moment after putting together an 8-game winning streak at year’s end… not bad for a team who won just 19 of their first 50 and were below .500 still on June 26. All while supposedly lamenting the departure of their alleged best player, Bryce Harper. Thankfully Anthony Rendon stepped up and led the league in RBI, last year’s rookie phenom Juan Soto elevated his game and of course, the pitching… Stephen Strasburg had a career year, the type people had been waiting for him to have ever since he first appeared in the majors back in 2010 while Max Scherzer battled a few aches and pains but was dominant when healthy. In the post-season, they’ve already turned heads, beating the heavily favored Dodgers before sweeping St. Louis in the NLCS. Rendon has been hitting .375with 8 runs scored in 10 games and a heady 1.059 OPS; the duo of Strasburg and Scherzer have combined to go 5-0 in 8 appearances (6 starts, each has made an uncharacteristic bullpen appearance too, testimony to their willingness to go all in to win) and have 60 strikeouts through 43 innings. Anabel Sanchez chipped in carrying a no-hitter into the 8th inning of one of his starts too. Patrick Corbin however, their off-season high-profile signing, has struggled with a 7.43 ERA over 5 appearances.

The Astros big trade deadline acquisition, Zac Greinke, has likewise not looked all that sharp, going just 14 innings through 3 starts with a 6.43 ERA, thanks in part to giving up 5 longballs. But it hasn’t slowed Houston down much as they return to the Big show for the second time in three years. Although Justin verlander has looked surprisingly human at times, he deserves his reputation as a “big game pitcher” and Gerritt Cole is as good as any pitcher going. Most of the time, the Astros’ hitting doesn’t need a ton of help anyway as they do what they did through the regular season – put a lot of runs on the board. As always in the post-season, little Jose Altuve comes up big. Not only did he end the ALCS with a walk off homer on Friday, in all this October, he’s hitting .349 with a 1.184 OPS due in no small part to 5 home runs already. Not that atypical for little Jose. Thus far in his career, he’s hit .287 in the post-season ( a little below his career average) but has a .906 OPS, better than his regular season numbers, and has clipped 13 homers in 43 games.

Back in early April, we picked Houston to win 104 games and then win the World Series over St. Louis. Well, the Cards didn’t quite get there (although they irked Cubs fans no small bit by overtaking Chicago in the lategoing days of September to make the post-season) but the Astros won 104, then 3 more and are representing the AL in the World Series. Given their home advantage (and their 60-21 record in Houston this regular season), their pitching, their playoff experience and the “big game” attitudes of Altuve and Verlander, we stick by the April call and say Houston over Washington in 6 games.

13 comments

  1. badfinger20

    Maybe Houston will just annihilate them but I don’t think so. The oddsmakers are forgetting that the Nationals pitching staff is equal to Houstons right now. I would take Scherzer in any big game right. Cole is the best pitcher of the two teams but he can only start in two games. Grienke can be hit and hit hard. Verlander is great of course but not Cole great.

    In the bullpen is where Houston has the advantage…the Nationals had the same weakness as the Dodgers…or worse but they have been pitching well also. We will see if the layoff slows them down.

    I think it will be a good series… better than the Las Vegas guys think. I think 6 games is right…Houston will probably win but I would not be surprised with an upset.

    Personally, I’m rooting for Washington. They have been close so many times and this is probably near the end of their window.

    • Dave

      Well, we’ll see. Unusual for a series where both teams have two starters on that level. I am slightly rooting for Houston – tend to prefer AL teams and my father-in-law (deceased before I met my sweetie, mind you) was a big Astros fan, having grown up in that area. But I’m not heavily “invested” in either team, so won’t be that upset if Washington pulls it off. Hope it’s a close series anyway! One thing I like about Nats is Howie Kendrick- I thought for years he was badly under-rated in California, glad he’s getting a bit of notice now.

      • badfinger20

        Same here with the NL and Washington…though let me stay this…if it were the Giants or Braves…I would not root for them NL or not.
        Yes you have a personal connection somewhat…I won’t be upset either way…I do think the Astros will win but I don’t think it will be as easy as the oddsmakers are saying…

        Since I said that…the Astros will probably sweep lol.

  2. badfinger20

    I would say the Astros are almost in a must-win Friday night. You don’t want to go down 3-0 in Washington. The starting pitching is deep for both teams but with Corbin and Sanchez left for Washington…they are in a great position.
    This could end up being a classic World Series or a major upset.

    • Dave

      Houston really have their backs against a wall. Greinke hasn’t stepped up so far this post-season but he’ll have to tonight. And they’ll have to get to sanchez, who’s been so much better than expected. I don’t see Houston coming back … now I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Washington take it in 4-straight!

      • badfinger20

        If Washington wins tonight it’s over with…because they can match aces except with Cole. The Astros are beating themselves also.

      • Dave

        and especially since Houston currently are planning a “bullpen” game for game 4… have you ever seen that succeed in the playoffs? I haven’t.

      • badfinger20

        No I haven’t…I think if they are down…they will change their mind about that. Their bullpen has not been stellar

      • Dave

        they have guys in the pen who’ve worked as starters, and thus should be able to go at least 5 innings. to me the whole “bullpen” game idea is dumb anyway. You pay starters money to start and give you innings. Even if you have 7 or 8 real good guys in bullpen, why burn them all out for no reason? How smart do you look if you do one of those games and then next game either the starter gives up 8 straight hits in first inning, or game goes 14 innings?

      • badfinger20

        It can burn you for sure. I see how it can be effective. Batters don’t get a rhythm against anyone but you can burn through your bullpen like you said.

        Kind of off topic but pertaining to bullpen….
        How do you feel about closers coming in when they really need them…not just the 9th?
        If a team has bases loaded with no outs in the 8th…I want my closer to come in then. He should be the best pitcher…besides the top two starters on the team. I would rather him get me out of that mess and take my chances with the bases empty in the 9th with the second best pitcher in the bullpen.

        Some managers are stubborn about that…and will not use their closer but in the 9th.

      • Dave

        I agree with you. But a lot don’t. To me, like you say, your ‘closer’ is the best bullpen arm, so you should have him in in any later-inning crucial situation… like bases loaded in 8th (unless it’s already a 10 run lead or so , so the extra runs wouldn’t matter.) I also figure that even relief pitchers should be able to go more than 1 inning at times… many do, but it seems some closers these days are conditioned to do 1 inning and about 20 pitches max. Seems like even back in the day of Dennis Eckersley or Jays’ World Series, teams would go to ‘closers’ for 2 innings routinely, or now and then bring them in perhaps in 7th if the game seemed on the line . Now, many managers are so invested in only using them in the 1 role, for the 9th inning only. I can’t see the benefit of that to the team

      • badfinger20

        Yes a lot of the saves they get are 3 outs with a 3 run lead. Also I would use mine in the 8th if the middle of the order was coming up…the most dangerous part.

        Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage would do 3 innings at times…they had the range of what is now a middle inning reliever. Sparky just threw sliders but Gossage threw heat. He would get in the mid to high nineties.

        Of course they were 10 years before Eck…well at least him as a closer.

        When the game is on the line I want the guy in. But like you said many don’t do that.

      • Dave

        To be fair, Eck and Gossage began as starters ( like Wade Davis & Ian Kennedy now) so they should be accustomed to throwing a few more pitches but still…are today’s crop of them so fragile they can’ t come back out for another inning? If so I’d hesitate in giving them 8-digit salaries.

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