The 2019 Fall Classic will begin this evening in Houston, Texas, as the American League Champion Houston Astros play host to the National League Champion Washington Nationals.
The two respective teams took impressive paths to the World Series, as the Astros rode the best record in the Major League (107 wins) to the AL’s No. 1 seed, before defeating the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays in a five game showdown in the ALDS and the powerful New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Meanwhile, the Nationals were one of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball after the All Star break, securing an NL Wild Card spot in the process. The Nationals secured a comeback victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card game, defeated the reigning NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a decisive game five showdown in the NLDS and swept the over matched St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
Las Vegas has this match-up as being a one-sided affair favoring the Astros (Houston is the biggest favorite since the 2007 World Series between Boston and Colorado), but don’t be surprised if the series comes down the wire.
While the Nationals may not be able to match the Astros’ offensive firepower, Washington does have formidable starting pitching that will counter Houston’s triple threat of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Expect a hard fought World Series with some memorable moments as the Nationals appear in their franchise’s first Fall Classic and the Astros look to secure their second title in three years.
Game 1, Washington @ Houston, Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT
In a pitching match-up that would make any baseball traditionalist proud, the Nationals will send three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to the mound against Astros ace, Gerrit Cole, the man most experts predict will sign the largest pitching contract in MLB history in the coming months.
With the Astros still basking in the glory of their epic walk-off victory over the New York Yankees over the weekend, I believe the underdog Nationals will show the baseball world they’re for real and take game one of the series. Look for the pitching duel to live up to the hype, and for the Nationals to make a decisive play or two in securing a game one victory.
Juan Soto delivers two-RBI in the victory, while Kurt Suzuki an insurance run with a late inning RBI double.
Game 1 prediction - Washington 3, Houston 1 (Nationals lead 1-0)
Game 2, Washington @ Houston, Wednesday, 8 p.m. EDT
Game two of the series presents another outstanding pitching showdown between Washington flamethrower Stephen Strasburg against former AL MVP and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander.
With the tides turned against them and facing the realistic possibility of a 2-0 deficit heading to Washington, the Astros right the ship in a game that turns out to be a slugfest.
Strasburg struggles against the Astros deep line-up from the outset, but Verlander’s 2019 postseason struggles continue as well, as he fails to put the Nationals away. In an exciting, high scoring affair, the Astros offense prevails, evening the series up at one game a piece.
George Springer continues his October brilliance with two home runs, while Josh Reddick and Carlos Correa each contribute their own round trippers in the victory.
Game 2 prediction - Houston 7, Washington 4 (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 3, Houston @ Washington, Friday, 8 p.m. EDT
The World Series moves back to the Nation’s Capital for the first time since 1933, when the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) were defeated by Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott and the New York Giants - 4 games to 1.
With an electric home crowd poised to rally behind them, the Nationals send veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez to face the prize of the 2019 trade deadline, Zack Grienke.
Although many experts have the Astros pegged to take the swing game, Sanchez out pitches his counterpart Greinke and leads to Nationals to an impressive victory.
Look for another tight game dominated by pitching and solid defense, with the Nationals providing just enough offense to prevail in front of the home crowd. Juan Soto provides the big blow with a bases clearing double off Greinke in the third inning.
Game 3 prediction - Washington 4, Houston 2 (Nationals lead 2-1)
Game 4, Houston @ Washington, Saturday, 8 p.m. EDT
In serious danger of going down three games to one, the Astros turn to their bullpen in a desperate situation, and with their championship aspirations on the line.
Answering the call like they have so many times before in their impressive run these past few years, the Houston offense explodes against Washington Nationals starter Patrick Corbin and prevails in game four in blowout fashion.
Washington manages to keep it close for most of the game; however, Houston rookie Yordan Alvarez provides the final blow with a three-run pinch-hit home run off Nationals reliever Sean Doolitle.
The Washington fans that were so eager to celebrate their team taking a commanding series lead, are suddenly faced with the reality that if a crowning moment does take place, it will happen on the road in Houston.
Game 4 prediction - Houston 9, Washington 3 (Series tied, 2-2)
Game 5, Houston @ Washington, Sunday, 8 p.m. EDT
With the seven game series reduced to a best out of three scenario, game five in Washington will prove to be instrumental in crowning the eventual World Series champion.
With the respective starters from game one of the series back at it, Houston’s Cole versus Washington’s Scherzer, this is the type of baseball game that baseball fans dream about.
In a game that has a little bit of everything - pitching, hitting, defense and timely hitting - the Nationals find a way to even the game in the late innings against the Astros bullpen, sending the game to extra frames.
In the bottom of the 12th inning with the score tied, the Astros make what most would consider the “right move” by intentionally walking young superstar Juan Soto in favor of a match-up with aging veteran Ryan Zimmerman.
As it turns out, Houston will rue the day they decided to face Zimmerman. The longest tenured member of the Washington Nationals delivers a walk-off home run in his last career plate appearance at Nationals Park, providing an October moment for the ages.
Game 5 prediction - Washington 8, Houston 5 (Nationals lead 3-2)
Game 6, Washington @ Houston, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. EDT
With the baseball world exhilarated at the possibility of a victory parade in the Nation’s Capital, Washington sets its sights on their first baseball championship since 1924.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, future hall of famer Justin Verlander has other ideas. Verlander dominates with a complete game shutout, evening the series and providing Major League Baseball and it’s fans with a “winner take all” Game 7 in the process.
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve lead the way with a home run a piece, while Michael Brantley goes 3-for-4 with a double and 2-RBI.
Game 6 prediction - Houston 5, Washington 0 (Series tied, 3-3)
Game 7, Washington @ Houston, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m. EDT
The pinnacle moment of the season has finally arrived, as baseball enthusiasts are blessed with another Game 7 of the World Series, only two years after the Astros defeated the Dodgers in a decisive game in Los Angeles.
Let's take a little trip down memory lane. At the beginning of the month, I predicted the Dodgers would win the World Series, defeating the Astros in a seven game series. I was wrong.
From the outset I believed the Nationals were the second best team in the National League, but it’s difficult to win a one-and done Wild Card game and overcome home field advantage to reach the Fall Classic. Major props to Washington in doing so.
I really admire what the Nationals have done this year - saying good-bye to Superstar Bryce Harper, overcoming a slow start, getting hot in the second half, a come from behind victory in the wild card game, defeating the Dodgers in a “winner take all” on the road, and manhandling the Cardinals in the NLCS. But, do they have enough left in the tank for their most challenging task yet?
It won’t come easy. With Anibal Sanchez on the mound against Zack Greinke, the game will be a back and forth affair, with neither pitcher completing five innings of work.
The seesaw battle will continue in the late innings with each team taking advantage of their counterparts weakest link - the bullpen. Leading by the score of 5-4 in the 9th inning, Houston will send Roberto Osuna to the mound in hopes of securing a championship title.
After retiring the first batter of the inning, Trea Turner will reach base on a base hit. Osuna will then retire Adam Eaton on a swinging strike out, setting up a showdown with someone “near and dear” to many Houston fans, former Rice University star Anthony Rendon.
With the Houston crowd on their feet and ready to celebrate a championship, a marathon battle between Osuna and Rendon ensues. Finally, on a 3-2 pitch in the 12th pitch of the at-bat - Rendon hits a fly ball to deep left field - Astros’ left fielder Michael Brantley drops back and looks like he has a play on the ball. With his back against the left-field wall, Brantley waits for that magical final out to nestle into his awaiting glove - but the ball, never arrives.
At the last moment a fan sitting in the “Crawford Boxes” in left field extends his glove and catches Rendon’s drive. The fan is wearing a Rice University t-shirt. Brantley throws his glove down in disgust and sprints toward the umpire working the left field line, pleading his case for fan interference.
As the umpires gather to make the biggest call in baseball history, the two minute conference feels like an hour to anxious Astros' fans. In the end, the ball hit by Anthony Rendon is declared a home run. Washington leads, 6-5.
After the longest instant replay in professional sports history, it is decided that there isn’t “sufficient evidence” to overturn the call and the home run stands. Somewhere out there, Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman breathes a long awaited sigh of relief. Has his infamous fan interference play in the 2003 NLCS finally been overshadowed?
The proverbial roof comes off at Minute Maid Park, as the capacity crowd of 41,168 Astros' fans lose their collective minds.
Meanwhile, every Houston coach imaginable gets ejected from the game by an overwhelmed crew of umpires and the game is delayed for 15 minutes as both teams clear the field. The crowd is warned that if they don’t settle down, the Astros will be forced to forfeit the game, and won’t be allowed to bat in the bottom half of the inning.
When the dust finally settles and the Astros come to bat in the ninth inning trailing 6-5, Washington sends closer Daniel Hudson to the mound. While the fans continue to boo the umpires in between pitches, the Astros stage a rally. With two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd base, Houston has a chance for their own late game heroics.
Yuli Gurriel steps to the plate looking play the hero and erase the impending controversy surrounding the game. Unfortunately for Astros fans and the umpires, Gurriel’s big moment fails to come to fruition. Hudson strikes out Gurriel on a 2-2 high fastball, later dedicating the final out to his newborn daughter.
In the strangest championship celebration in memory, Washington abruptly leaves the field to separate themselves from the raucous crowd. Houston fans refuse to leave the stadium, as more than 40,00 fans do their own part to protest the agonizing defeat.
So, there you have it. Will the 2019 World Series go down exactly like this? Highly unlikely. But, I do believe the Nationals will complete the final step in this unlikely path to a title, defeat the Astros in Game 7 in Houston and earn their first baseball championship since the Calvin Coolidge administration. Enjoy the Fall Classic!
Game 7 prediction - Washington 6, Houston 5 (Nationals win World Series, 4-3)