Very rarely do we have such a contrast in makeup of the two World Series-contesting clubs.
One has a limited, but successful history in their conference, while the other is a household name in the NL, without having ever done anything of note – and who are just one of two teams never to have contested a World Series.
It makes for a gorgeous build-up, and the storylines typically write themselves. The Astros should be winning this, but all the pressure will be on the shoulders of Jose Altuve and co to keep a lid on expectations and just play the way they have to this point.
The Nationals will do one of two things: relax and realise this moment will be the pinnacle of their careers – or overthink every base-running opportunity and gift outs to a club that really don’t need them on a plate in the first place.
The Houston Astros are a gorgeous blueprint for the modern-day franchise. Ironically, they displaced the New York Yankees en route to the World Series – ‘the’ franchise – and thus were figuratively re-crowned with a sense of affirmation for doing so.
It just means more when you beat the Yanks, doesn’t it?
At the very foundation of this team is lights-out pitching. That might seem rich to say given how Game 1 of the Conference Championship went, but the point of seven-games series is simply to determine the best outcome due to the amount of games played.
It may not have prevailed in Game 1, but by the end of Game 6, there would be no doubt who the deserving winners were. And while you can easily write off part of this to the brilliance exhibited by the batting order, there have been better, more consistent and harder-hitting orders in the majors all season.
To find out what truly makes the Astros tick, you probably need to look at the intangible. Hitters may not put up the key numbers like the Yankees, but unlike their more marketable counterparts, they can rely on their pitching staff should base hits be hard to come by.
And they generally are in high-pressure moments. This is what makes the Astros bred to win World Series. Sparing last year’s anomaly, we could easily be looking at a team winning three in a row – something that seemed improbable in the modern era.
Nobody has spoken about the Nats to this point, and the tale of them getting this far will be told by generations of folk in DC – but how that tale ends is now the focal point, rather than the guaranteed memory.
To win four games in this series, the Nats will have to keep serious plate discipline and make that Astros bench warm-up some of the bullpen earlier than they’d like.
It just seems that it’s already a mountain to climb and there’s parity on the scoreline. The big question is whether or not this Nats lineup can handle the situation – is being this big an underdog detrimental to your preparation overall?
I suggest the Astros win this in five.
BET | Houston Astros 4-1 Washington Nationals +440 with CanPlay Sports