One team was destined to be here from the very start. The other had no business dreaming of October baseball, let alone slaying the biggest titan of the National League en route to their first World Series appearance.
The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, who begin the 2019 World Series on Tuesday night, took two very different paths to reach the Fall Classic, but they converge in what looks to be one of the most unpredictable matchups in recent memory.
Both teams boast stellar starting rotations, and the pitching matchups are among the best we’ve seen in the World Series. Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, and Patrick Corbin will all take the hill in this series.
Between the lot of them, these starters own five Cy Young Awards (with another on the way potentially for Verlander, Cole, or Scherzer) and five no-hitters (six if we include Anibal Sanchez’ no-no).
|Game 1||Tue, Oct 22||WSH @ HOU||8 pm ET|
|Game 2||Wed, Oct 23||WSH @ HOU||8 pm ET|
|Game 3||Fri, Oct 25||HOU @ WSH||8 pm ET|
|Game 4||Sat, Oct 26||HOU @ WSH||8 pm ET|
|Game 5||Sun, Oct 27||HOU @ WSH||8 pm ET|
|Game 6||Tue, Oct 29||WSH @ HOU||8 pm ET|
|Game 7||Wed, Oct 30||WSH @ HOU||8 pm ET|
The quality of pitching in this series is no secret, but here are five things you may not have known about these World Series teams.
1. The Nats and Astros have two of the oldest teams in MLB
Who says MLB belongs to the kids? While both rosters were built upon youth-driven position player cores, at 31.1 years, the Nationals have the oldest average age among MLB teams this year. At 29.4 years, the Astros aren’t too far behind with the fourth-oldest team in baseball this season.
At both ends of the spectrum, the Nationals have 20-year-old sophomore sensation Juan Soto, with 42-year-old Fernando Rodney chugging along in his 17th season as a Major League pitcher.
Meanwhile, the Astros youngest player this season was 22-year-old pitcher Bryan Abreu, with 36-year-old Justin Verlander as the senior member of the American League champion Astros.
2. Two massive free agents playing in the World Series
This World Series provides a rare glimpse at two of the biggest marquee free agents on the market this offseason. Gerrit Cole is the belle of the ball and he’s been an absolute beast in the playoffs for the Astros.
He may not win the AL Cy Young award this year (that honour might go to his teammate Justin Verlander), but Cole is destined for a $200 million-plus payday this winter.
On the other hand, Anthony Rendon flew under the radar these last few years as one of the most underrated third basemen in MLB. The 29-year-old third baseman will be high on the wish list of prospective teams.
3. The Nats had the fourth-worst record after 50 games
Back on May 23, the Nationals had reached rock bottom. They lost their fourth consecutive game, sending their season spiralling downwards to a 19-31 record. That’s when the Nats turned their season around and made an unexpected about-face march towards the postseason.
Thanks to a 74-37 record in their final 111 games of the season, the Nationals just barely scraped their way into the playoffs. On May 23, FanGraphs gave the Nats a 22.2% chance to make the playoffs and now they’re four wins away from becoming World Series champions.
4. Two of the longest-tenured players in MLB on the Nats
This is no knock on MLB players, but they go where the money is … which is why it’s difficult to find long-tenured members on any one roster across baseball. Yet, the Nationals have two of them.
Both Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg are both drafted and developed players who have spent every moment of their Major League career with the same team.
Zimmerman isn’t the longest-tenured player in MLB with the same team, but it’s close. Only Yadier Molina has spent more time with his original team, the last 16 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Zimmerman has played 15 seasons with the Nats, while Strasburg goes back the last 10 seasons with Washington. Combined, that’s 7,368 games dating back to 2005 for both fixtures with the Nationals.
The pair could find themselves with different teams next year as Strasburg could opt out of the final four years of his contract. The Nats also hold an $18 million club option on Zimmerman for the 2020 season, which they will more than likely decline and pay the $2 million buyout instead.
5. Canadian connections to both teams
There is but one Canadian among all players from the World Series teams this year and that’s Quebec’s own Abraham Toro. His claim to fame this season was hitting the game-winning home run during Justin Verlander’s no-hitter against the Blue Jays earlier this September.
Toro hasn’t cracked the Astros’ playoff rosters yet, but even if he doesn’t take a swing in the World Series, if the Astros win it all, he still goes home with a ring.
While the Nationals don’t have any Canadian-born players on their roster, the remnants of the Montreal Expos connection still exists. The Expos fled Montreal for Washington at the end of the 2004 season.