HOUSTON -- It’s a throwback World Series, a star-laden World Series, a World Series that will either put the stamp on a modern-day dynasty or break a historical mold.
The Astros and Nationals begin the 2019 World Series tonight with a Game 1 pitching matchup for the ages -- Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer -- and storylines abound. The particular narrative about the renaissance of starting pitching in this postseason is very real, because Cole-Scherzer in Game 1 gives way to Justin Verlander-Stephen Strasburg in Game 2.
But what matters most, ultimately, is what this Series means for the teams and fan bases involved. For the Astros, that could mean a second World Series title in three years, on the heels of winning 100 games in three straight regular seasons. In Major League history, only two other teams -- the 1929-31 Philadelphia A’s and the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals -- won at least 100 games three times AND two World Series titles in the same three-year span.
“We play with an edge,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s nice to feel like you've still got to push a little bit for the credit this group deserves.”
Then you have the Nationals, whose story has captivated both the baseball nation and the nation at large. Beyond the incredible run from a 19-31 start, this is the first Fall Classic in franchise history and the first for any team from the D.C. since the 1933 Washington Senators. The weight of that history will be felt -- and certainly heard -- when the Series shifts to a raucous Nationals Park for Game 3.
“I truly believe that these guys are fired up to be here,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said. “We played a lot of unbelievable games this year. We've come a long way.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 1 is tonight at 8 ET on FOX.
All World Series games will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to FOX through a participating pay TV provider.
What do the starting lineups look like?
Nationals: The Nationals are planning to use Howie Kendrick as the designated hitter for the first two games of the series, which keeps one of their best hitters in the lineup and takes probably their weakest defender off the field. Asdrúbal Cabrera is inserted into the lineup in his place at second base as the Nats elect to go with offense.
Here is the lineup for Washington:
Astros: Houston slashed .179/.281/.318 in the ALCS and did most of its damage with eight home runs, including a pair of walk-offs, so Hinch makes no wholesale changes in the World Series.
Here is the lineup for Houston:
Who are the starting pitchers?
Nationals: As expected, Scherzer (2-0, 1.80 ERA this postseason) will get the ball for Washington for Game 1 and Strasburg will go in Game 2. Scherzer is coming off back-to-back excellent outings, allowing a combined one run on five hits and five walks with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. He has made one World Series appearance, starting Game 4 in 2012 with the Tigers, striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings and giving up three runs in a 4-3 loss to the Giants.
Astros: Cole (3-0, 0.40 ERA this postseason) will get the baseball in Game 1, followed by Verlander in Game 2 on Wednesday and Zack Greinke in Game 3 on Friday. Cole is on one of the most amazing runs of any starting pitcher in recent history, going 19-0 with a 1.59 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and 258 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings in his past 25 starts, including the playoffs. The Astros have won each of his past 16 startZ
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Nationals: A significant development during the NLCS is that Washington might have found a third arm to lean on out of the bullpen in Tanner Rainey, who struck out three and did not walk a batter in a pair of appearances during the series. Adding Rainey to a group including Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle gives Martinez three relievers he feels comfortable handing the ball to. It is possible the Nationals will be willing to use left-hander Patrick Corbin out of the bullpen as well in the first two games.
Astros: Houston clinched the ALCS by using a bullpen game, running out seven relievers in a Game 6 win over the Yankees. They should all be rested and ready for the World Series. Roberto Osuna threw the most innings among Astros relievers in the ALCS with five, and Will Harris, Joe Smith and Josh James each tossed 3 2/3 innings. Strong work in the ALCS from Brad Peacock and Jose Urquidy gives Houston some depth. Right-hander Ryan Pressly also makes the roster.
Any injuries of note?
Astros: Pressly, the only member of Houston's bullpen to make the All-Star team this season, suffered a scare in the third inning of Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday when some scar tissue in his surgically repaired right knee came loose while fielding a grounder, causing him to leave the game but he's on the Series roster.
Who is hot and who is not?
Nationals: Rendon has a hit in eight straight postseason games with a slash line of .462/.514/.731. ... Kendrick was named NLCS MVP after posting a 1.012 OPS.
Astros: Altuve, the ALCS MVP, hit .348 with two home runs and a team-high six runs scored in the series. … Brantley hit .304 in the ALCS. … Correa (4-for-22), Bregman (3-for-18), Reddick (2-for-12), Springer (4-for-25), Gurriel (3-for-24) and Alvarez (1-for-22, 12 strikeouts) all scuffled in the ALCS.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The Astros are 27-36 all time against the Nationals (since 2005) and last played them in the regular season in 2017, losing two of three games. Houston last played in Washington in ‘14, getting swept in two games. The Astros have lost 14 of their past 16 games against the Nats since Sept. 11, 2011.
The AL holds the overall World Series lead, 66-48, but the NL has won five of the past nine.
Of the 50 players that were on the 25-man rosters for the Astros and Nationals, 16 have previous World Series experience -- 10 for the Astros and and six for the Nationals.