Seven months ago, 30 teams all had dreams and aspirations of getting to the World Series.
After a regular season of 162 grueling games and three weeks of division and league championship playoff games, it all comes down to just two teams — the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals in the World Series.
The Yankees and Dodgers are both playing golf this week, allowing every sportsbook director to finally exhale. I spoke to a half-dozen book bosses and they all told me by far the most long-term tickets written were on New York and Los Angeles. In fact, there were so many future bets on NY and LA that if either would have won, the MLB campaign would have resulted in a loss for many of the books.
Since the strike season of 1994, the American League has won 13 World Series and the National League has won 11. Five have resulted in four-game sweeps, while seven have gone all seven games.
The current odds on the series: Astros -220, Nationals +180. Washington’s road to get here was very dramatic. They had to come from behind in the Wild Card game to beat Milwaukee. They were down in the NLDS and needed to win the final two games to oust Los Angeles. Then they swept St. Louis in the NLCS to reach their first Fall Classic.
Houston needed five games to take down the Rays in the ALDS. The Astros lost Game 1 of the ALCS to New York, but won four of the next five and win the series in six games.
The Nationals finished the regular season in second place in the NL East, with a record of 93-69. They are now 101-71 (54-32 at home, 47-39 away). Washington did do quite well in Interleague play, posting a 14-6 mark. The Nationals have averaged 5.39 RPG with a team BA of .265, and a team ERA of 4.27.
The Astros were a league-best 107-55 in the regular season. They are now 114-59 (H 65-22 home, 49-37 road). Houston was a respectable, 11-9 in Interleague action. Houston averages over 5.68 RPG with a team BA of .274, and a team ERA of 3.68.
These two teams met 10 times between 2012-2017, with Washington winning nine of the 10 matchups. This is a remarkable stat not to be overlooked.
On a side note, I see the totals on these games floating from 6.5 to 7.0 runs. We all know how strong the pitchers are, but, these are also two of the best hitting clubs in baseball. The oddsmakers are daring you to take the over here. I am going to wait to see how the lineups deliver in Game 1 before I start hitting the totals.
Just between us, yes, Houston should be the favorite for the series here. No doubt about that. However, do not count out Washington. No one gave them a snowball’s chance in hell to get to the playoffs. A team that no one gave a second thought about that made it this far is very dangerous.
Of course there is pressure on them, but not like the pressure that Houston is feeling to beat them. I am not saying they are going to win the World Series, I am just saying not to dismiss them so easily. This series is looking like the best we have seen in recent memory.
Nationals at Astros: Game 1 of this series would have already been played by the time this week’s publication hits the stands. Game 2’s starters are confirmed, with Stephen Strasburg facing Justin Verlander in a battle of elite right-handers.
Strasburg is a perfect 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in this year’s playoffs and owns a career 4-2 postseason record and a 1.10 ERA. Verlander is 1-2, with a 3.70 ERA in the 2019 postseason and possesses a lifetime 14-9, 3.26 playoff record.
Based on this pitching matchup, I must side with the hotter ace, and that is Strasburg. NATIONALS
Last week: 0-1