The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros will face off in the 115th World Series, with Game 1 set for tonight at 8:08 p.m. on Fox.
Top 1st: One Hit, and Little Else for Cole
Gerrit Cole quickly had to deal with a runner in scoring position, but nothing came of the Nationals’ brief threat.
Trea Turner led off the game with a sharp grounder to short that Carlos Correa couldn’t field cleanly, leading to an infield hit. On the next pitch, Turner stole second, just barely beating Martin Maldonado’s throw. Adam Eaton popped out to third on a bunt attempt and Anthony Rendon struck out, bringing up Washington’s powerful youngster, Juan Soto, who struck out swinging on a 99-mile-per-hour fastball.
Playing in Houston, the Nationals will have a designated hitter for the game, and they went with Howie Kendrick, who won the M.V.P. Award in the N.L.C.S.
1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Adam Eaton, RF
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Howie Kendrick, DH
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
7. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Victor Robles, CF
The Astros went with a fairly typical lineup for them, with the only aberration being Martin Maldonado starting at catcher, thought that is typical in games started by Gerrit Cole.
1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Michael Brantley, LF
4. Alex Bregman, 3B
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Carlos Correa, SS
7. Yordan Alvarez, DH
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Josh Reddick, RF
Keys to the Game
Every game of this series could potentially be a marquee pitching matchup, with both teams boasting three terrific starters. In Game 1, it will be Max Scherzer on the mound for Washington and Gerrit Cole starting for Houston. There is no doubt that Scherzer, with his three Cy Young Awards, is the more accomplished of the two, but if you limit things to this postseason, the Astros appear to have a razor-thin advantage.
In three starts, Cole has a 0.40 E.R.A. over 22⅔ innings, with 32 strikeouts and eight walks. Opponents have hit .132 against him and Houston won all three of his starts. Scherzer has started three games and appeared once in relief, putting together a 1.80 E.R.A. over 20 innings with 27 strikeouts and eight walks. Opponents have hit .134 against him and the Nationals also won each of his starts. The difference largely boils down to Scherzer having had a rocky first two innings in his wild-card round start against Milwaukee
The Nationals have a Most Valuable Player Award candidate in Anthony Rendon and the Astros have one in Alex Bregman, but the best postseason hitter between the two teams has been Houston’s Jose Altuve who has a .349 batting average, .767 slugging percentage and a postseason-leading five home runs, including a walk-off against the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series to send the Astros to the World Series. Rendon has been rolling for Washington, slashing .375/.465/.594, but he has just one home run. Bregman has struggled some, with a batting average of .257, but has made up for that some by leading all postseason batters with 10 walks.
The Astros are heavy favorites to win the Series, with the Westgate SuperBook and other oddsmaking agencies starting them out as -220 favorites. By most measures the Astros are the biggest favorite in the Series since the Boston Red Sox took on (and swept) the Colorado Rockies in 2007, with Sportsoddshistory.com reporting that Boston was favored -240 that season. Houston had been -165 against the Yankees in the A.L.C.S. (which went to six games) and -300 against Tampa Bay in their division series (which went to a full five games). Washington was an underdog against the Los Angeles Dodgers in their division series but was favored, -140, in the N.L.C.S. against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Much will be made of this being the first World Series in Washington D.C. since 1933, but the Nationals have no connection to either Senators franchise — not the original American League team that played in Washington from 1901 to 1960 before becoming the Minnesota Twins, nor the expansion team that played in Washington from 1961 to 1971 before becoming the Texas Rangers. Instead, the Nationals get their franchise history from the Montreal Expos, a team that never advanced beyond the N.L.C.S. In 36 years of major league baseball being played in Montreal, the city hosted just five postseason games.
Even with interleague play, teams from the American and National Leagues, beyond regional rivals, simply don’t play each other very often. As a result, most World Series matchups are between franchises with relatively little history between them. But the Astros, as a result of their unusual shift from the N.L. to the A.L. in 2013, are the exception to that rule.
Houston has faced the Expos/Nationals franchise 451 times in the regular season and owns an impressive 244-207 record against them. Contrast that to last year’s matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox: teams that had been around for a combined 253 seasons but had faced each other just 15 times. The record for regular season games between World Series opponents? The Astros and Dodgers, who were once N.L. West rivals, had already faced each other 711 times in the regular season when they met in the 2017 Series.