Posted on October 22, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Washington Nationals Max Scherzer
Image via sportingnews.com

After starting with 30 teams, most of whom didn’t take and actually tried to win games, we’re down to the final two teams in the 2019 MLB season. The 2019 World Series gets underway Tuesday night with the American League champion Houston Astros taking on the National League champion Washington Nationals. The Astros are heavy favorites to win the series and their second title in the last three years. However, Tuesday’s Game 1 is up for grabs.

Long Layoff

The Nationals made quick work of the Cardinals in the NLCS, sweeping St. Louis in four games. On the surface, that seems like a good thing, but it also means the Nationals have had six days off between games, which is unusual for any baseball team. In past years, teams with that kind of layoff before the World Series have cooled off and struggled to maintain their moment. The Nationals scored 15 runs in the final two games of the NLCS, so getting time off might not be what’s best for them and now they’ll have the challenge of trying to get back on track quickly in the World Series.

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Pitching Matchup

Getting off to a hot start won’t be easy for Washington’s lineup against Gerrit Cole, who could be in the middle of one of the greatest playoff performances by a pitcher in baseball history. Over the three starts he’s made in the postseason, Cole has covered 22.2 innings while allowing just one run on 10 hits. It’s almost unbelievable what he’s done and if Cole was able to shut down the Yankees and all of the power bats in their lineup, there’s no doubt he’s capable of dominating Washington’s lineup.

Of course, the Nationals are able to counter with Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner who has made over a dozen playoff starts. In three starts and one relief outing during this year’s postseason, Scherzer has posted a 1.80 ERA. After he struggled to stay healthy late in the regular season and gave up three runs in the Wild Card Game there were questions about Scherzer. But he’s responded and gotten better as the playoffs have gone along. Scherzer took a no-hitter deep into his last start against the Cardinals and has allowed just one run on five hits in 14 innings of work over his last two starts.

X-Factor

The x-factor in Game 1 is Juan Soto. Outside of Anthony Rendon, most of Washington’s hitters have struggled against Cole in their career, and that’s not likely to get any better given how hot Cole has been in the playoffs. Soto, meanwhile, is yet to face the Houston ace in his career. He was also just 3 for 16 in the NLCS but will be vital for the Nationals during the World Series. The Nationals need Soto to come up big if they’re going to win the World Series and it’ll start with doing something against Cole in Game 1.

Prediction

After six days off, the Nationals are coming into this game cold, which isn’t what you want when facing a pitcher like Cole who’s in top form. It’d be shocking to see Cole suddenly struggle after what he’s done in the playoffs. The Nationals, of course, have a chance with Scherzer on the mound. But Houston’s lineup is just a little bit better and more likely to find a breakthrough in a pitcher’s duel. Houston wins 3-1.

Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.

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