Five key takeaways from the Astros sweep of the Nationals in the World Series games in Washington.
As improbable as it might have been, the Astros went into Washington and won all three games against the Nationals. This comes on the heels of losing both of the first two games in Houston, which made it seem even less probable. Now the Astros will take a 3-2 World Series lead into Game Six at Minute Maid Park with Justin Verlander on the mound.
These past three games have seen the re-emergence of the Astros team that fans have come to expect this season. Good pitching, timely hitting and solid defense have combined to make this a fun stretch of games for fans. Here are five key takeaways from this three-game win streak.
The Boys Are Back
After struggling for most of the playoffs to score runs and hit with runners in scoring position, the Astros offense finally awoke. They were 11-for-28 (.393 average) with runners in scoring position over the past three games, compared to 3-for-18 (.167 average) in the first two World Series games.
What’s helped is they’ve gotten production up and down the lineup. Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa homered in Game Five, while Robinson Chirinos went deep in Games Three and Four. And of course the sleeping giant Alex Bregman hit that grand slam in Game Four.
Bullpen Is Nails
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
We knew going into the World Series that the Astros had the superior bullpen, but it’s still impressive how well they’ve done. It started in Game Three with 4.1 scoreless innings to follow up Zack Greinke‘s start, which was a key turning point in the series.
They stepped up in Game Four with four scoreless innings to follow Jose Urquidy‘s gem and then a pair of scoreless frames in Game Five to seal the win for Gerrit Cole. With a day of rest before Game Six, this group should be rested and ready to go.
No Clear MVP
If the Astros do finish off the World Series with a win, at this point it’s not clear who the MVP would be. Cole had a rough Game One start before his Game Five gem; the team’s second-best start of the series was by Urquidy, but that could be his only appearance.
In the lineup, Alvarez has the best numbers with a .545 batting average and 1.433 OPS, but he only started three of the first five games. Of those who’ve started every game, Brantley has the highest average (.400) while George Springer has the highest OPS (1.217). Altuve and Yuli Gurriel also have strong numbers and some timely hits.
Since they have gotten offensive production up and down the lineup, what happens in Game Six (and, if necessary, Game Seven) will go a long way toward determining who ends up as the World Series MVP if the Astros are able to defeat the Nationals.
Future Free Agents Step Up
All the talk has been about Cole, who is poised to shatter records with a huge contract this offseason. He did step up big in Game Five after putting together a monster season. But there are a few other impending free agents who’ve been key in this series.
Not the least of which is Will Harris, who might even be in the World Series MVP conversation himself. He’s thrown 3.1 scoreless innings of relief and gotten some of the biggest outs in the most clutch situations. Joe Smith, also set for free agency, has made three scoreless appearances as the team’s setup man.
Not to be outdone, the catching tandem of Chirinos and Martin Maldonado has also hit well at the plate. Chirinos is hitting .364 with a pair of homers and a 1.364 OPS, while Maldonado also has a long ball to go with his .286 average and 1.089 OPS. The Astros will clearly have some decisions to make this offseason aside from just Cole.
Urquidy Claims 2020 Rotation Spot
Jose Urquidy has stepped up for the Astros in an incredible way as a rookie. He’s made three appearances this postseason, allowing just one run in 9.1 total innings. His only start, which of course came in Game Four of the World Series, was a five-inning scoreless gem.
The Astros have Verlander, Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. slated for the 2020 rotation, with Cole’s future in question. Even if Cole returns, Urquidy’s performance in September and October seems to have earned him that fifth spot in next year’s starting rotation.