The Washington Nationals stunned Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros, kicking off the World Series with a dramatic win in Game 1. If this is any indication of things to come, we should be in for a whale of a series.
What’s on tap
8:07 p.m. ET: Nationals at Astros, Game 2
The view from inside the ballpark
HOUSTON — There were two very clear messages in the Astros clubhouse after their Game 1 loss. First, the Astros know just how good this Nationals team is and have expected to be in a fight for the entire series. At the same time, Houston’s players took quite a few positives from the at-bats they had — and the pitch count they were able to force from Max Scherzer — and seem confident that will translate to production as the series progresses. — Dan Mullen
A stat to impress your friends: Justin Verlander undoubtedly is one of the best pitchers of his generation and has earned a reputation as a big-game starter, but that’s not so in the World Series. Verlander is 0-4 in five World Series starts, which is tied for the most starts without a win in Series history.
1. Which pitcher would you rather send to the mound in any given October game: Stephen Strasburg or Verlander?
At this exact moment in time — Oct. 23, 2019 — I’m going with Strasburg. We’ve seen a couple of shaky performances from Verlander this postseason: the game he started on short rest against the Rays and the bad first inning against the Yankees in the ALCS, when he admitted he was a little too amped up. Strasburg, meanwhile, has remained as cool and stoic as he is in a May start against the Marlins — though he did admit that he doesn’t know exactly what to expect in his first World Series start.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never done it before. I know what I expect of myself. I’m going to hold true to that. That’s all I can really control. My approach is everything, and how I respond to whatever happens once the ball leaves my hand is just as important.” — David Schoenfield
If we’re talking about October legacy, it’s Verlander. All day, every day. Verlander is an all-time postseason legend. But we’re not. We’re talking about today, and Strasburg is the guy I’d want on the mound tonight. The Nats’ Game 2 starter has a 1.10 career postseason ERA — though in about 130 fewer postseason innings than Verlander — and has been just about untouchable this October. — Mullen
2. What’s the best thing about Minute Maid Park — and the worst?
I like the train. It’s goofy enough — but not ridiculous — to be fun. Every park should have something that says “I’m in Houston” (or wherever) that helps separate it from the other ballparks across America, and that’s what the train does. The dislike is easy for me: The Crawford Boxes in left field are a joke. I mean, they might be fun to sit in, but the left-field line is just 315 feet away, and the wall carries for three sections of seats, providing the easiest home run target in the majors. More cheap home runs are hit there than any other place at any other field. Make today’s swing-for-the-fences hitters earn their home runs. — Schoenfield
The best thing about Minute Maid Park: the fans. There’s energy in the ballpark from the moment the gates open. The fans wear orange. They stand. They’re loud, and they erupt when the Houston lineup does anything.
The worst thing about Minute Maid Park: the roof. I just looked at my phone, and it’s 68 degrees outside as I type this in the middle innings of Game 1. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect night to be watching a World Series game under the stars instead of looking up at metal overhangs? — Mullen
OK, we just said how great Strasburg is. He is great! But so is the Astros’ lineup, and they’ll make him work, run up his pitch count and knock him out after six innings. Then the ‘Stros will rally against the Washington bullpen. Astros 5, Nationals 3. — Schoenfield
Well, I can’t really gush about Strasburg the way I did above and then pick him to lose Game 2. As tough as it is to beat Verlander and the Astros’ lineup in this ballpark, I’m going with the Nats to take a 2-0 series lead. Nationals 4, Astros 2 — Mullen
About last night
Stud of the night: Juan Soto, the 20-year-old who opened some eyes in his first game on baseball’s biggest stage by getting to Gerrit Cole for a solo home run to tie it in the fourth and a huge, two-out, two-run double in the fifth.
Dud of the night: Certainly didn’t think we’d be going here, but Gerrit Cole, who allowed five runs over seven innings and was tagged with his first loss since May 22.
Highlight of the night:
Juan Soto hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game and a two-run double in the fifth to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.
Off the diamond
Social media says:
These fans have something to say about that whole “Baby Shark” thing … pic.twitter.com/NLzGcN5QHt
— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 22, 2019
Quote of note: “I’ll be honest with you: My eyes got a little watery for him. He waited a long time to be in this position, and for him to hit that first home run and put him on the board was awesome.” — Nationals manager Dave Martinez on Ryan Zimmerman‘s second-inning home run
Best of the Fall Classic so far
Our running World Series MVP: Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, a home run and a key double in Washington’s Game 1 win over Gerrit Cole.
The play of the series: George Springer‘s near-miss in the eighth inning of Game 1. With Houston down 5-3 and a runner on second, Springer hit a long drive to right-center that hit off the glove of a leaping Adam Eaton and bounced away. Kyle Tucker scored, but Springer had to settle for a double. Could he have made it to third? Springer said he wasn’t able to go full-speed with Tucker tagging up. If Springer had made it to third, could he have scored on Jose Altuve‘s fly ball in the next at-bat? We’ll never know. Springer got no farther than second, and the Astros’ best chance to tie the score went by the boards.