I know D.C. is deflated right about now. Heading into Game 3 of the World Series, the Nationals had a 2-0 lead against the Houston Astros and had won 18 of their previous 20 games — but that excitement has been dashed.
Losing all three at Nationals Park isn’t exactly how you’d draw it up if you’re planning to win the series. And part of it was the way they dropped the three games — they were outscored, 19-3, and went just 1-for-25 with men in scoring position. That certainly didn’t exactly spell excitement or drama for the home fans.
But like the scene in “Animal House” when the late John Belushi and his frat mates were up against it, all the Nats need is a “road trip.” Sure, we can admit now that the Astros probably are the better team from top to bottom. But with just one or two games left in their season, the Nats may just have the Astros right where they want them. I hear you asking, “Huh?”
While Astros ace Gerrit Cole has probably been the best pitcher in the game throughout the 2019 season, nobody has been more dominant than Stephen Strasburg in these playoffs. In 28 innings, Strasburg has allowed just six earns runs while striking out 40 and walking just two. That figures out to a 1.92 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. For his postseason career, which spans eight appearances and 47 innings, Strasburg’s ERA drops to 1.34 and the WHIP is just 0.95.
So the chances of Houston ringing the bell early and often aren’t high with Strasburg starting Game 6 for the Nationals. On the other side of the hill stands right-hander Justin Verlander. He recently became the first pitcher in World Series history to lose his first five decisions in the Fall Classic, but he’s still a great pitcher.
Sure, anything can happen in one game, but oddsmakers would tell you that what is past is prologue, meaning Strasburg will pitch very well and that Verlander is quite likely to lose again. Note that I said lose again, not that he’ll pitch poorly.
In 182.2 postseason innings, Verlander’s ERA is 3.35, his WHIP is just a morsel down from Strasburg’s at 1.05, and he’s surrendered 24 postseason home runs. For the record, Strasburg’s given up three homers during his 28 postseason innings this year. Those are the only homers he’s given up in his 47 postseason innings.
To me, it just says Strasburg is less likely to have the one big “ouch” moment — like a two- or three-run homer — than is his counterpart.
So, if I am right about Game 6, a Game 7 would be in the offing. The Astros would start right-hander Zack Greinke, while the Nats will play right-hander Max Scherzer’s condition close to the vest. It seems unlikely Scherzer would be able to start Game 7, but could he provide a singular moment — say, like an Andrew Miller in a key fourth- or fifth-inning spot?
That’s the stuff of legends. That’s the drama we dream about in a Game 7.
Wouldn’t it be something for the long suffering and actually exasperated D.C. baseball fans to get all that drama that was missing in person in D.C., which hosted three bland and boring games? Instead, they could be glued to their TV sets watching two drama-filled wins.