By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
The Washington Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series to advance to their first ever World Series since moving from Montreal to Washington, D.C.
For many fans, it has been a long time coming since the Nationals came into formation in 2005. After winning the NL East four times in five years from 2012-2017, the Nationals were unable to advance past the NLDS every year. This led to the Nationals losing their coveted All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper to free agency. Many people wrote them off but, the Nationals were able to rebuild without Harper and improve their team for the better.
The Nationals finished the season hot and made it into the Wild Card game where they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers.
Because the Nationals have been underdogs the whole way and because they have certain key players, I believe they will win the World Series.
The Astros do have a superior roster in some ways, but the Nationals are not far off. Again, this is Washington’s first World Series in franchise history. The Nationals were able to overcome the Phillies and find a way into the playoffs. As of this past weekend, the Houston Astros are the largest favorites in a World Series since the Boston Red Sox in 2007 against the Colorado Rockies. The Nationals were underdogs to the Dodgers in the NLDS, then were slightly favored in the St. Louis Cardinals series even though the Nationals were just 2-5 versus the Cardinals this year.
The Nationals have that “October Clutch” factor that not many teams have. Just go back to Game Five of the NLDS where they were trailing on the road 3-1 facing arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball history in Clayton Kershaw. Back-to-back home runs by Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon tied the game and sent the game to extra innings, where Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam.
In 38 at-bats in this postseason, he has hit two homeruns and has driven nine runs. Those nine runs are the most by a Washington National in postseason history. Kendrick is boasting himself for an early WS MVP award if the Nationals keep going on this track.
Let’s not forget the other stars on the Nationals. Their rotation will include Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Aníbal Sánchez. Strasburg, who is now Top-10 All-Time in postseason ERA with a 1.10, has been phenomenal this October. Sánchez took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in the first game of the NLCS is not something to undermine.
With the Houston Astros lineup holding the likes of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and José Altuve; it is going to be up to the Nationals pitching to keep them in it. I believe that with the Nationals having the extended break, especially for pitching, they will be rested and have a shot at knocking off the heavily favorited Houston Astros.
By Marc DeMartis ’21
The Houston Astros are headed back to the World Series for the second time in the last three seasons. Coming off a six-game series with the New York Yankees, they show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Although the Washington Nationals have quite the batting lineup to compete with the Astros’ strong pitching staff, the Astros easily match the Nationals firepower with a stacked batting lineup of their own. There is no reason why they will not continue their dominance into the World Series.
The Astros were already having a fantastic regular season with a pitching rotation that included two of the best pitchers in the game, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole (both of whom are coming off of 300 strikeout seasons). Then, making the trade for star pitcher Zack Greinke towards the end of the season was the final piece to the puzzle for the Astros. With a pitching rotation that includes three of the MLB’s best pitchers, it is going to be hard for the Nationals to hit as well as they have been all year. In terms of Washington’s weaknesses, their bullpen is not nearly as deep as Houston’s. With relievers like Will Harris and Ryan Pressly, the Astros have the depth necessary to go deep into games whereas the Nationals relievers are not nearly as reliable.
Not only is the Astros pitching dominant, but with a batting lineup that includes stars such as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Michael Brantley it’s hard for any team to stop their hitters. Five out of nine players in the Astros starting lineup hit .296 or above during the regular season which just goes to show how hard it is to pitch to this team. Players like Jose Altuve have been red hot for the Astros this postseason, posting a team-high .315 batting average with two home runs, the second one being his walk-off that sent his team to the World Series over the Yankees in Game Six.
With regards to World Series experience, Houston’s roster carries six position players who were a part of their World Series win back in 2017, which is more than the Yankees, Cardinals, and Nationals combined. With experience on their side, the Astros look to earn their second ever World Series trophy while the Nationals continue to fight for their first ever World Series title.
Another important aspect of this series that must be mentioned is the fact that the Astros will have the home field advantage for this series. Considering the Astros were the best home team in the MLB this season and have only lost one home game this postseason, it seems highly unlikely for the Nationals to pull this one out.