Posted on October 25, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
A win in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series was a surprise, but a win in Game 2 by the Washington Nationals was a total shock. After being heavy favorites at the start of the series, the Houston Astros now find themselves trailing 2-0 as the series shifts back to Washington for the next three games. The pressure is firmly on the Astros to win at least two of the next three games to force the series back to Houston. If there’s a comeback in the Astros, it has to start in Friday’s Game 3 at Nationals Park.
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Houston’s lineup has drawn great praise as one of the best in lineup in baseball in recent years, and for good reason. But it’s Washington’s lineup that has stolen the show during the first two games of the World Series. In Game 1, the Nationals proved that Gerrit Cole was human and did just enough to eke out a 5-4 win.
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But they took it to another level in Game 2, chasing Justin Verlander from the game and immediately doing damage against the Houston bullpen. The Astros didn’t do themselves any favors with some defensive shortcomings, but most of the credit belongs to the Washington lineup. Even with MVP candidate Anthony Rendon going 1 for 8 in the series, the Nationals have scored 17 runs and launched five home runs, including a couple from unexpected sources like Michael Taylor and Kurt Suzuki.
The Astros will look to Zack Greinke in Game 3 to cool down Washington’s lineup. Greinke was the big midseason acquisition most believed would put the Astros over the top this season. Now they need him to help save their season. Unfortunately, Greinke has been a letdown during the postseason, going 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA over his three starts. In his defense, he bounced back from a rough outing in the ALDS with two decent performances against the Yankees in the ALCS, allowing just four runs over 10.1 innings across his two starts. The Astros don’t know exactly what to expect out of Greinke against a red-hot Washington lineup. However, he did throw 7.1 shutout innings when he faced the Nationals in mid-June when he was still with the Diamondbacks, so he knows he can handle their lineup.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound in Game 3. The 35-year-old veteran has been nothing short of brilliant in his two playoff starts and arguably the biggest surprise of the entire postseason. Last time out, Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Cardinals. He was half bad against the Dodgers in the NLDS, giving up just one run over five innings. The only caveat is that Sanchez hasn’t pitched in exactly two weeks, so there’s a chance he might not be that sharp against a hungry Houston lineup.
The X-factors in Game 3 will be Carlos Correa and Robinson Chirinos. Keep in mind that the Astros are losing a hitter because there will be no DH for the games in Washington. That puts a little extra pressure on Correa and Chirinos in the two spots in front of the pitcher. In fact, the Astros just need Correa to get going, as he’s hitting .160 during the postseason and 1 for 9 the past two games. Chirinos is also 4 for 7 in his career against Sanchez, so he could be a sleeper for the Astros at the bottom of the order.
After he was brilliant in his last start, Sanchez is bound to come back down to earth. After all, he’s had two weeks to get off rhythm and won’t have the fortune of facing the St. Louis lineup again. The Astros are too good to go down without a fight and they’ll inject some life into this series with a win on the road. Houston wins 7-3.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.