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World Series Preview: Can the Nationals hang with the Astros?

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

October baseball- there’s nothing better than it. Every pitch, every hit and every game is much more dramatic, with this year’s postseason no exception. It’s been everything fans could want.

On the American League side, we’ve seen two heavyweight contenders in the Yankees and Astros go toe-to-toe in the American League Championship Series. The Astros eventually proved to be the better, more well-rounded team, giving the Yankees the boot with a Jose Altuve walk-off home run.

On the National League side, it hasn’t disappointed either. We saw an unexpected contender in the Nationals prove they should not be taken lightly as they fought back against the Dodgers and made quick work of the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

Now coming up later tonight, we get two of the best teams in baseball the World Series. In Game 1, we should also see a preview of what’s to come in this year’s Fall Classic – a fantastic starting pitching matchup.

Tonight, Astros fireballer Gerrit Cole is set to go up against fellow heat thrower “Mad Max” Max Scherzer. Then, in Game 2 tomorrow night, there’s no let down, as Astros ace Justin Verlander will match up with Nationals longtime trusted ace Stephen Strasburg.

In Friday night’s Game 3, Astros’ right-hander Zack Greinke will take on Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin. Obviously, this sets up as the worst pitching matchup of the series thus far, but it’s still former Cy Young winner in Greinke and Corbin put up great numbers this season and last.

As of right now, Games 4 through 7 are TBA, as far as the pitching matchups are concerned. But, you have to figure that both teams will empty the tank with their starters and slot some of these guys in those other matchups.

These pitching matchups as they are set up right now should set the momentum for this series. Which team’s starting pitching will be better than the other? That’s what this series is going to come down to.

The Astros might have a slight edge as far as bullpen pitching goes, but that’s still not their strong suit. Both teams hope their bullpens don’t blow the game late. So with us knowing that, I believe this series comes back to starting pitching.

Who is going to blink first, the Astros starting pitching or the Nationals? I think both teams are even in this category. So the question then is, which offense will come through and be able to hit the other teams great starting pitching?

The Astros undoubtedly have the better lineup on paper out of the two teams. Pretty much one through seven or eight, the Astros are a tough out for any team. It’s no secret that Houston has some great hitters. The only knock on the Astros offense in my mind is that they didn’t hit as well as everyone may think against the Yankees.

The Astros weren’t very good at hitting with runners in scoring position in the ALCS. They were a combined .109 with runners in scoring position. They did hit three home runs though with RISP, which lessened the lack of numbers they held elsewhere. So if they hit the way they did against the Yankees, which was a far worse pitching staff than the Nationals, can they win games? It will be tough if they don’t break out of the funk they were in offensively. They have to hit better against the Nationals with RISP if they want to come out victorious in the World Series.

On the other side of this matchup offensively, the Nationals do also have some great hitters in their lineup, as they throw out third baseman Anthony Rendon, 20-year-old sensation left fielder Juan Soto, veteran Adam Eaton and young shortstop Trea Turner. After that, though, the Nationals lineup takes a hit.

Outside of those players listed above, the Nationals have some okay names in the bottom of their lineup, but nobody with All-Star credentials like the Astros can throw out there in the bottom of their lineup. The two pluses I would give to the Nationals, however, with their offense are this: As a team, they hit .393 with runners in scoring position against the Cardinals in the NLCS; I would also add, I would take Anthony Rendon at the plate right now in a clutch must-win situation over anyone on both teams.

The only downside to those numbers is, will the Nationals be cold to start the series? As Rockies fans can remember from 2007, after a long layoff in the championship series the Rockies did not hit against the Red Sox. So will the Nationals come out hot offensively again or will they be cold like the ‘07 Rockies?

Something’s gotta give with this and I would take the Astros offense right now to put better at-bats together consistently in this series. That edge goes to the Astros. The Nationals can surprise some people in this series if they can hit, but will they at the start of the series? I would bank on the Astros offense being better at the start and end of this series.

That’s why it’s probably no surprise to you that I’m picking the Astros over the Nationals in five games, maybe six. I would love to see the Nationals come out hot offensively and go toe-to-toe with the Astros to force seven games. I just don’t see the Astros dropping a ton of games in this series.

They have the better lineup, they have a slight edge in the bullpen and their pitching is as good or better than the Nationals. Mix in the fact that the Nationals are coming in presumably cold, I go Astros in five games similar to what the Boston Red Sox did to the Rockies in 2007 (which was a sweep).

If the Astros win this year, that would set up the Astros second World Series championship in the last three years. The Astros have the look and feel of a dynasty. Even if they lose Cole this offseason, that’s two championships in three years and the chance to still do damage in the next handful of years.

For you Rockies fans that are reading this, don’t forget that the Astros at one point were a 100-loss team. Their scouting department is one of the best in baseball, though. They’re also one of the best at listening to their analytic team and mixing in feel with roster moves/scouting.

Every team in the league should be trying to do what the Astros have done. The problem is, just like the Rockies, most teams can’t get out of their own way.

Enjoy the last bit of baseball until late February!

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Be sure to catch all of the World Series games on 104.3 The Fan and ESPN Denver 1600:

Tuesday, Oct. 22 – Game 1 – 6:00 pm | 104.3 The Fan
Wednesday, Oct. 23 – Game 2 – 6:00 pm | 104.3 The Fan
Friday, Oct. 25 – Game 3 – 6:00 pm | 104.3 The Fan
Saturday, Oct. 26 – Game 4 – 5:00 pm | ESPN Denver 1600
Sunday, Oct. 27 – Game 5 (If necessary) – 5:00 pm | ESPN Denver 1600
Tuesday, Oct. 29 – Game 6 (If necessary) – 6:00 pm | 104.3 The Fan
Wednesday, Oct. 30 – Game 7 (If necessary) – 6:00 pm | 104.3 The Fan