The Washington Nationals went into the morning of May 24th with a miniscule chance of making the postseason. The Nats defied the odds entering the postseason as the Wild Card berth. The team found themselves in varying odds of underdogs during each series in the postseason. The Nats were big underdogs against the Dodgers in the NLDS, and slight underdogs in the NLCS against the Cardinals, and the second worst odds of winning the World Series against the Astros. Caesars Sportsbook opened with the Astros as -235 favorites to beat the Nationals in the best-of-seven series. The Nats were listed as +195 underdogs.
From 501 Crawford Street in Houston to 3570 S. Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, the Nats were given little chance of winning this World Series against the Houston Astros. Was it a lack of respect? It was what it was. The Nats wanted to prove the doubters wrong. The Nationals were on an 18-3 W/L record entering the World series and a six game winning streak in the postseason while the Astros were 7-4 in the postseason. Since May 24th and through the end of the NLCS, the Nationals won 82 games and the Astros had won 81. If you throw out the first 50 games of the season, the Nationals had been a slightly better team than the Astros, but that did not matter to those who project the winner and loser in this World Series. On top of that, the 3-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was asked questions as if he was some journeyman placeholder leading up to pitching opposite of the Astros’ Gerrit Cole in this Game 1.
“I’ve been in [this] situation [before], and faced really good pitchers here in the NL over the years [pitchers like] Kershaw, deGrom, those guys,” Scherzer said before the World Series. “You just know you’ve got to come out there, you’re going to be throwing up zeros, and you’ve got to try to match the intensity from your opponent, and Cole has had a terrific year so it will be one heck of a challenge.”
Yes, as we always say if you throw zeros you cannot be beat. This was the same Max Scherzer who threw a six inning no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals and had a 0.60 ERA between his three appearances in the last two rounds of this postseason. Okay, Gerritt Cole had been slightly better with a 0.40 ERA — but what matters is the results. Of course we know how it all ended, and now you have a chance to watch it all again.
In the ALCS, the righty Cole gave up two singles and a walk in the first inning against the Yankees and worked out of the bases loaded situation. Obviously he can be beat, but beating him would be a challenge. Sometimes you just need BABIP to go your way. Ryan Zimmerman had a theory on the lucky bounces.
“In the [postseason], you have to get a couple lucky bounces,” said Zimmerman. “I’ve seen it the other way where the other team gets a couple lucky bounces go their way. It’s a wacky game.”
We saw some wacky plays in the postseason that changed the course of games. What the Nats did well was putting the ball in play.
For manager Dave Martinez‘s lineup in the first game in Houston, he had the American League rules and played with a designated hitter and that allowed him to insert Howie Kendrick as his DH and play the switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera at second base. Otherwise, it was the same lineup as we saw most of the postseason along with Kurt Suzuki at catcher. Of note, the Astros did not put one lefty pitcher on their World Series roster.
“I preached all along of staying in the fight and going 1-0. I talked to all the players yesterday, and they’re all upbeat and excited,” Martinez said. “Big stage big moment, and like I said I’m proud of where we’re at, and I’m proud to be associated with the Washington Nationals and the fact that we’re one of two teams playing for the world championship.”
Sometimes you also have to make your own luck, and both of the teams did that to get to that point. There were also strategic decisions that had to be made. The Nationals published their World Series roster and removed Austin Voth and Roenis Elias from their NLCS roster and added Joe Ross and Wander Suero. There were no changes made to the position players on the roster.
Washington Nationals at Houston Astros
Stadium: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
1st Pitch: 8:00 pm EDT