HOUSTON -- The Astros set their pitching rotation for Games 1-3 of the World Series on Monday. Gerrit Cole will start Game 1 against Max Scherzer on Tuesday, followed by Justin Verlander in Game 2 against Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. When the series shifts to Washington, Zack Greinke will start Game 3 on Friday; the Nationals have yet to name a starter beyond Games 1 and 2.
Hinch didn’t announce which pitcher would start Game 4 on Saturday, saying it will either be veteran Brad Peacock or rookie Jose Urquidy in what’s likely to be a bullpen game.
“In Game 4, as in typical fashion, we'll read and react based on how we want to do it,” Hinch said. “It could be Peacock, could be Urquidy, could be somebody different based on how the first three games go.”
In the regular season and postseason, the Astros were 55-19 in games started by Cole and Verlander and 59-40 in games started by anyone else.
Pressly good to go
Astros finalized their World Series roster on Tuesday, and relief pitcher Ryan Pressly was healthy to be on it. Pressly suffered some pain in his right knee fielding a bunt in Saturday’s Game 6 American League Championship Series win over the Yankees, but it didn't keep him off Houston's 25-man squad for the Fall Classic.
Pressly, who missed a month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in August, said postgame Saturday that some scar tissue had broken loose and the initial pain scared him more than anything. Pressly said Monday the knee hasn’t swollen any more than it did initially.
“It feels fine. It’s a little sore, but that’s normal,” Pressly said. “I think we’ll be fine. It’s a matter of getting out there and getting off the mound.”
Pressly was an All-Star after the first half of the season but struggled to find his form while he dealt with a knee injury in the second half. When he’s healthy, he’s a wipeout back-end reliever who’s a critical piece of the Houston bullpen.
• This Series has best pitching since ... well ...
Bregman ready to take off
No one is harder on himself than Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who strives for perfection. Bregman, coming off a regular season that has placed him in the AL Most Valuable Player race, hit .167 with a .222 slugging percentage and one RBI in 26 plate appearances in the ALCS. He did draw seven walks, which is why his on-base percentage was .423.
“I think I’ve played very mediocre, not great, not horrible, but I think I commanded the strike zone pretty well,” he said. “I think I chased one or two pitches out of the zone I shouldn’t have with runners in scoring position that I wish I could have back. I think there were at-bats when the infield was playing back at first and third the other night, and I wanted to take a ground ball to shortstop to make sure I got the run in.
“I think I walked like eight or nine times, so I think I did a good job of getting on base. I think mechanically, I was off slightly in my swing. And those are some adjustments I need to fix leading into this series. I think if I do that, the pitches I choose to swing at, I’ll do damage on. I think there’s a lot of breaking balls in the zone [where] if I was mechanically right, I homer on. Instead, I wasn’t. I have to fix that mechanically.”
Bregman said it’s imperative the Astros command the strike zone against the quality of pitching the club will be facing, especially against lefty Patrick Corbin’s slider and Strasburg’s changeup. Corbin’s slider gets a lot of swing and misses below the zone. Strasburg’s changeup comes down and in to righties and away from lefties and can be a strike or ball at the bottom of the zone.
“You’ve got to be aggressive to go hit your pitch but not chase at the same time,” Bregman said. “They get people out because people chase. One of our best things we do is not leave the strike zone. That’s going to be a fun chess match to watch this series.”
Bregman said José Altuve, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the ALCS, and reliever Will Harris were the only Astros who played “outstanding” in the series win over the Yankees.
“Our best baseball is yet to be played,” he said.
Spring Training means nothing
The Astros have seen plenty of the Nationals in Spring Training, having shared the team facility with Washington in West Palm Beach, Fla., since 2017. The teams played each other six times during Grapefruit League this year, but otherwise aren’t very familiar with each other. The only regular-season series between the clubs since the start of the ‘15 season was a three-game series at Nationals Park in 2017.
Among the Astros who have never faced Scherzer are Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez, while Nats star Soto has never faced Cole or Verlander. Greinke faced the Nationals earlier this year (June 13) while he was still with Arizona.
“Spring Training doesn’t mean anything,” Astros center fielder George Springer said. “They’re not at their best. They’re out there making things up. You can’t really look much into Spring Training besides we play each other like 50 times because we share the same complex. That’s about it.
“Who they are in Spring Training is not who they are now. They’re a great team. Their stuff is probably a little bit better than it was during Spring Training. They’re probably throwing a little bit harder.”
Hinch pays tribute to Cooper
As Hinch met with the media Monday afternoon, he took a few minutes to express his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of umpire Eric Cooper, who passed away suddenly Sunday. Hinch said there’s a picture on the internet of Cooper and Hinch arguing, but said he has the utmost respect for him.
“Coop was an incredible man that everybody looked forward to seeing on the field,” Hinch said. “And unfortunately, when you go to Google a picture about Coop, it's like me and him yelling at each other, because that's the nature of the interaction that you guys get to see on the field. But the brotherhood that we have in our game is important and extends to the umpires and to his family.”
Major League Baseball announced Monday the umpires working the World Series would wear a uniform patch in memory of Cooper, a 21-year veteran. Cooper worked the 2014 World Series among his many career postseason assignments, was active in programs with UMPS CARE Charities, the official philanthropy of MLB umpires, including visits to pediatric hospitals and bringing underserved youth for behind-the-scenes ballpark visits.
Gary Cederstrom, who is in his 26th season, will work the Fall Classic for the fourth time, including his second assignment as its crew chief. He will lead a crew that includes regular-season crew chief Sam Holbrook, Lance Barksdale, Doug Eddings, James Hoye, Alan Porter and Jim Wolf. Porter will call balls and strikes in Game 1.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.