Posted on October 27, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It took a few games, but the Houston Astros seem to have found their stride following their 8-1 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of the World Series. Despite Washington taking a 2-0 lead, the Astros have tied the series 2-2 to guarantee a return to Houston for at least one game. Perhaps more importantly, the Astros have seized the momentum in the series, shifting the pressure onto the Nationals for Sunday’s Game 5.
Houston MVP candidate Alex Bregman stole the show in Game 4 with five RBIs, including a grand slam in the 7th inning to put the game on ice. However, the Astros have gotten back into the series the past two games because of contributions from unexpected sources. Catcher Robinson Chirinos has homered in back-to-back games to give the Houston lineup a much-needed boost without the use of the DH. Rookie Jose Urquidy also gave the Astros their best performance of the series by a starting pitcher in Game 4, tossing five shutout innings and limiting the Nationals to just two hits, cooling down a previously hot lineup.
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With the series even, the Astros will turn back to Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole. After looking unhittable throughout the American League playoffs, but he came back down to earth against the Nationals. While he stayed in the game for seven innings, Cole was victimized by a pair of home runs, allowing five runs on eight hits. Cole will have to pay particular attention to Juan Soto, who had three hits and three RBIs in Game 1. If Cole can prevent Soto from doing damage, he should have more success than he did in his first start of the series.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will look to Max Scherzer to help them get back on track. The three-time Cy Young winner gave everything he had in Game 1, giving up two runs in the first inning but keeping the Astros off the scoreboard after that. Scherzer struck out seven and limited Houston to seven hits, but he only lasted five innings. Given the vulnerability of Washington’s bullpen outside of Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, the Nationals need to get more than five innings out of Scherzer if they hope to turn around their fortunes and regain their series lead.
The X-factor in Game 5 could be Houston outfielder Josh Reddick. To get to Scherzer and force him out of the game as soon as possible, the Astros need the back half of their lineup to be dangerous, which means players like Reddick, Chirinos, and Carlos Correa having good at-bats. Reddick is just 1 for 9 in the series and 4 for 31 (.129) in the postseason. However, prior to Game 1, Reddick was 5 for 11 with a triple in his career against Scherzer, so he still holds the key to the back end of Houston’s lineup doing damage in Game 5.
The Astros made Scherzer work in Game 1 and they’ll be poised to pounce on him a few days later. At this point in their careers, Cole is more likely to bounce back from a subpar performance in Game 1 than Scherzer. Perhaps more importantly, the Astros have gotten Bregman going over the past two games, which should help give them the lift they need to win three in a row at Nationals Park. Houston wins 5-2.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.