HOUSTON — Here’s the thing about this 2019 World Series. Even after Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole delivers a thrilling Game 1, it’s back 24 hours later with a pitching matchup that’s probably just as good.
It’s Justin Verlander, a sure-thing Hall of Famer at this point, vs. Stephen Strasburg, the once-Nats savior who seems to have finally delivered on all the hype and all the promise with which he entered the league.
The Nationals come into Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead. Taking two games in Houston, beating Cole and Verlander at Minute Maid Park, would be something of a wild D.C. dream. It’s silly to call Game 2 a must-win, but if the Astros drop the first two games at home, this series could get out of their hands quickly.
In that sense, it’s probably good they have Verlander on the mound — even though he’s had a couple of tough outings this October, he’s still one of the best postseason pitchers of his era.
“I'm going to be in my own world and do my own thing and just try to be in my routine as much as possible,” Verlander said before Game 1. “You know that the nerves are going to be higher. Your body knows it's not a regular start. Going to sleep tonight is not going to be the same as normal. But having done it before, I don't know if it helps, it's definitely not going to calm you down anymore, but I know what to expect going into it.”
Strasburg has traditionally been great in October too. He has a 1.10 ERA across 41 innings in 2014, 2017 and 2019. This, however, is his first World Series appearance and that brings heightened nerves. He’s not trying to downplay or deny that.
“I think it's natural,” Strasburg said. “It just shows that you care. And I think everybody in the clubhouse cares, and we care about each other. You're going to get the butterflies. Done it enough times that the more you try and settle in, the more it gets. And I think it's beneficial to just play wherever you're at. You know it's going to be a storm out there. You're going to weather it.”
Game 2 lineups
Same lineup for Nationals in Game 2 of the World Series. If it ain't broke ...
Trea Turner SS
Adam Eaton RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Juan Soto LF
Howie Kendrick DH
Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Kurt Suzuki C
Victor Robles CF
Stephen Strasburg P
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) October 23, 2019
The Astros in Game 2 of the World Series pic.twitter.com/Dt4zELNYRw
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 23, 2019
What to watch for: Astros hitting with traffic
We’ve heard all year about how dangerous the Astros’ lineup is, and while that may be the case in a grand view, October hasn’t really proven it. They jumped out a 2-0 lead early in Game 1 and George Springer did his best to pull them closer with two late RBIs, but the point remains that the Astros need to do more offensively.
Specifically: They need to hit better with runners in scoring position. They stranded 11 runners in Game 1 and were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position. When you get that much traffic against the Nationals and don’t deliver, that’s going to be frustrating.
It’s bigger than this series too. Their October slash with runners in scoring position is .185/.248/.348, which is quite poor. Turning that around could turn around this series.
Game 2 pageantry
Here’s what’s lined up for Game 2 pre-game pageantry:
• US Air Force Airman First Class Leah Fox will perform the national anthem.
• Houston native and Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Simone Biles will throw out the first pitch.
• Marlen Esparza, an Olympic gold-medal winning boxer from Houston, will lead the “Play Ball!” chant.
• The great Hank Aaron will also be in attendance at Game 2, as MLB will hand out the Hank Aaron Award before the game, which will be given to the best offensive players in the AL and NL. Mike Trout and Christian Yelich were named the 2019 recipients Tuesday afternoon.
Quote of the Day
“Better take my bat home. Sleep with it, figure it out.” — Astros star Alex Bregman to Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown after his struggles in Game 1.
Where to Watch
Game 1 starts at 8:07 p.m. ET from Minute Maid Park in Houston. TV coverage is on FOX.
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