While some have said that the ALCS was the de facto World Series, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Nationals will present a test as tough as any the Astros have faced up to this point. They took down the Dodgers and blew through the Cardinals, after all.
Looking at the teams’ lineups, the Astros have an edge, but not by much. The Nationals lineup isn’t as deep, but there are plenty of potent bats. They have their own MVP candidate in Anthony Rendon along with a mix of top young talent (Juan Soto, Victor Robles), seasoned veterans (Howie Kendrick, Ryan Zimmerman) and key contributors (Trea Turner, Adam Eaton).
However, the Nationals are probably the only team that can match the Astros in starting rotation prowess. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that their rotation is even better. The Astros have Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, but essentially lack a fourth starter.
The Nationals, meanwhile, have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin as their top three. Trying to argue one group is better than the other would be splitting hairs, though the Nats don’t have someone who’s on the same incredible roll that Cole is on.
They do, however, have Anibal Sanchez as their fourth starter, and he’s pitched well this postseason. He allowed one run in five innings against the Dodgers and tossed 7.2 scoreless frames against the Cardinals. They’ll need him to pitch well, because the Nats do have one significant weakness.
Battle of the Bullpens?
The Nationals bullpen was one of the major league’s worst, and they really only have a few guys they can rely on. Closer Sean Doolittle and setup man Daniel Hudson are going to get the most important innings, and they’re going to be tough to beat.
But the key for the Astros offense is to get the Nationals starters out of the game in six innings or less. Doolittle and Hudson can’t pitch every relief inning, and they could get worn down over a long series. That’s a big advantage the Astros will need to exploit.
Prediction: Astros in 6
This won’t be an easy series, but the bullpen advantage may be too much for Washington to overcome. Gerrit Cole earns World Series MVP after winning both of his starts.