Astros on verge of title

Posted 10/29/19

Despite a disastrous start at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros have rebounded with three straight wins in Washington D.C. over the Nationals to take a three-games-to-two advantage in the 2019 World Series.

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Astros on verge of title

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Despite a disastrous start at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros have rebounded with three straight wins in Washington D.C. over the Nationals to take a three-games-to-two advantage in the 2019 World Series.

Game six was played in Houston on Tuesday, after this writing, meaning the Astros will either be revving up for a do-or-die seventh game on Wednesday or celebrating their second world championship in three seasons by the time you sit down to read this.

Regardless of how the series plays out, baseball fans were treated to an extremely competitive Fall Classic despite certain speculations to the contrary. Amazingly, the road team has been victorious in each of the first five games, a World Series first.

The Nationals were the first team in months to make Gerrit Cole appear human on the pitcher’s mound. In game one, they pounced on Cole for five runs in seven innings and were able to hold off a late comeback attempt for the 5-4 win.

Game two appeared to be just as competitive until Washington exploded for 10 runs in their final three at-bats, including a six-run top of the seventh inning to put the game out of reach. Justin Verlander was pulled with nobody out in the seventh and was ultimately charged with four earned runs and the loss.

Then it was Houston’s turn to be the road team. The Astros quite literally one-upped Washington with three straight victories at Nationals Park to reclaim series control with a vengeance.

Astros pitching surrendered a total of just three runs in the three wins. This credit is largely due to the bullpen. In game one, Zack Greinke battle through 4.2 innings and surrendered one run. Bullpen pitchers Josh James, Brad Peacock, Will Harris, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna logged the final 4.2 innings in scoreless fashion to compliment timely knocks by Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Robinson Chirinos.

Game four saw five two-hit, scoreless innings from Houston starter Jose Urquidy. The bullpen would surrender just two more hits throughout the final four innings to pick up an easy 8-1 victory. Alex Bregman erased any hopes of a Washington comeback with a grand slam in the top of the seventh.

After a tough performance in game one, Cole came back to life in a critical game five matchup. He logged seven innings in his first World Series victory, allowing just three hits and one earned run. George Springer, Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa each picked up a pair of RBIs in the 7-1 win.

Perhaps the biggest story from game five was the guy who did not play. Nationals ace Max Scherzer was originally scheduled to go up against Cole, but was scratched due to nerve irritation in his neck. As of Monday evening, it was still unsure whether or not Scherzer would be able to pitch in game six or, if necessary, game seven.

Scherzer logged five innings in the first game of the series, allowing two runs on five hits in the Washington win.

I do not like to brag (and it may be misguided, depending on Tuesday’s outcome), but I did predict the Astros to win the series in six games in last week’s column. Unfortunately, due to space constraints, the article did not run in print. It was, however, posted online and is accompanied by the date. Just saying.

Granted, I never would have expected them to lose the first two matchups at home and come back to win it all.

The Nationals have had something to prove against Houston. The Astros were the most heavily-favored team to win the World Series entering game one since the 2007 Boston Red Sox, who went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies.

The Astros earned high praise, but it was never wise to overlook the Nationals. Washington surrendered just six total runs in a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS and, entering game three, had not lost since Oct. 6. They defeated the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the Divisional Series after qualifying for the postseason with 93 wins and a wildcard out of the N.L. East.

On Sunday, Deshaun Watson led the Houston Texans on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to complete an impressive comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders at NRG Stadium.

Watson threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns in the win. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in 11 Watson passes on the day for 109 total yards.

It was Darren Fells, however, who was able to find the end zone twice on the afternoon. His second touchdown, which would prove to be the game winner, came as a result of one of the most impressive plays you will see this season from Watson. He somehow contorted a sack to escape the pocket and find an open Fells in the end zone for the score.

The Texans looked great against the Raiders, but remain hot and cold on the season. They still trail the Indianapolis Colts by half a game in the AFC South. The Colts narrowly defeated the Denver Broncos at home on Sunday.

Houston also lost the services of J.J. Watt for the remainder of the year as a result of a shoulder injury, a crushing blow for the franchise.

The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed their bye week on Sunday and currently have a record of 4-3, good for a half game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles evened up their record at 500 with an impressive road win over the Buffalo Bills (5-2) on Sunday. Dallas currently owns the head-to-head advantage over Philly thanks to a 37-10 victory over the Eagles in Arlington on Oct. 20.

The Cowboys will hit the road to visit the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on Nov. 4. Philly will host the struggling Chicago Bears a day earlier.

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