The stage is finally set for this year’s World Series, between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros.
Houston are, unsurprisingly, the resounding favorites at -200. They’ve been one of the favorites throughout the majority of the season, but once the Dodgers were eliminated from the National League, they flew forward. I suggested backing them at +350 and now they’ve shortened to -200, so pat yourself on the back if you put a stake on them.
Washington are this year’s surprise package. Both them and St Louis Cardinals were the outsiders in the outright winner market but found themselves in the NLCS after beating the Dodgers and the Braves (who were both the higher seeded teams) respectively. The Nats then swept the Cards in the Championship to win the NL pennant. It was almost too easy. They’ll have six days rest compared to Houston’s two, coming into the finals.
The Astros have home-field advantage thanks to having the highest regular-season winning percentage, which is the seventh time in a row the AL has had such an advantage (pre-2017 was due to the American League winning the All-Star Game).
These two teams have not played each other since 2017, so here’s their head-to-head record since 2009.
Head-to-head: 35 games played, Washington lead the record winning 23-12 (.657). The Nats are 12-3 at Nationals Park and 11-9 at Minute Maid Park with 181 runs scored and 153 allowed.
Here are three things to look out for during this year’s World Series:
No rest advantage
As I’ve already mentioned, the Nationals sweep of the Cardinals means that they’ll have four days extra rest than their rivals but that doesn’t tend to help in baseball, actually, in recent years, you could argue that it hinders your team.
In the last ten years, the team that has had more days’ rest has only won the World Series once; last season’s edition where Boston Red Sox defeated the Dodgers. Less rest is best, apparently.
And it hasn’t been just a short-term stat either. Go back to 1994 and record is 12-12. You may be surprised at this aspect of the game, but these guys have been playing baseball nearly every day since late March. Playing every day is a way of life for these guys and as soon as you give them a rest, they’re not as hot as usual.
Because of this, expect Astros’ bats to be dominant and Nats to suffer. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom for Washington; the extra days mean that they can line their rotation however they want, at the very least. In the first few games, back the overs (if it’s around 4.5) run scored for home team
Yes, Jose Altuve, “el pequeño gigante”. The reason why the Astros are in the World Series thanks to his walk-off two-run homerun against the Yankees in Game 6. It just highlights what has been an unbelievable postseason it’s been for the 5’6” second-baseman. He has upped his game massively in the playoffs with a batting average of .349, five homeruns, an OBP of .419 and OPS of 1.184. He leads in postseason HRs and is second, along with teammate in Yuli Gurriel, in AL RBIs (and he can probably top that as the leader is Gleyber Torres with 10).
He’s won the ALCS MVP, and with this form it’s worth taking betting on him hitting a homerun when he faces most of the Nats rotation. If you can, bet on him winning World Series MVP (it’ll be between him and Gerrit Cole).
Yes, I’m mentioning Houston’s pitching again, and in particular, the shining star of Houston in Cole. He’s another one who’s postseason stats are insane. His ERA in the postseason is 0.40, across three games and 22.2 IP. That’s not all, he’s had 32 strikeouts, only 8 walks and a WHIP of 0.79. It’ll be no surprise if he wins the Cy Young award over Justin Verlander. Basically, do not oppose Houston when he’s on the mound, no matter where he pitches.
The ones to keep an eye on for the upsets will be Verlander and Zack Greinke. The former has been struggling as of late, which is unlike him and may be because of the short rest. I assume manager AJ Hinch won’t allow Verlander to pitch first and expect him to line up second in the rotation. I’d back Washington to cover the run line against him.
Greinke is another one that’s looks a little weak, he hasn’t got the greatest postseason record (there’s a Dodgers choking joke in here somewhere). He was saved by Pressly in Game 4 of the ALCS and lost Game 1 too. He may just not be a big game pitcher like the rest of his rotation can be and is definitely one of the games that the Nationals can win.
All in all, I think, and have thought that the Astros have this in the bag but wouldn’t want to back them at the price. Having them to win the series 4-2 or 4-1 would be another bet I’d be willing to take, but the way to play this is game-by-game. Good luck.