Jake Ernst previews the 2019 World Series featuring the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros. With deep starting rotations, potential MVP, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young candidates, this matchup provides no shortage of star power.

Houston Astros vs. Washington Nationals

Date & Time: Tuesday, October 22nd at 8:08PM (EST)

Location (Game 1): Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX

Line: Houston Astros -240 to win the World Series

TV Channel: Fox, Fox Sports

The Astros Have Been the Odds-On Favorite Since Opening Day

The Houston Astros entered the MLB season as co-favorites with the defending champion, Boston Red Sox to win the 2019 World Series and while Boston missed the playoffs and failed to live up to the hype, the Astros exceeded expectations, winning 107 regular season games (the most in the MLB).

For the Astros, it was smooth sailing pretty much all year and they were able to essentially cruise their way into-and-through the postseason. On the contrary, for the Washington Nationals, it was the complete opposite, as they had to fight their way from the bottom in almost every aspect of the season.

Washington entered the season as one of the favorites to contend for a World Series title, with most sports books offering 16/1 or +1600 odds on the MLB’s newest franchise (founded in 2005). Just a month later in mid-May, after starting the season off with an underwhelming record of 19-31, the Nationals weren’t only being excluded from World Series conversations, but were being left out of postseason discussions as well. After their mediocre start and at their lowest point, betters were finding the Nationals’ World Series odds at-or-around +5,000.

Since that poor start however, the Nationals went on an extraordinary run, winning 74 out of their next 112 games, concluding their 2019 regular season with a record of 93-69 and earning them one-of-the-two Wild Card spots in the National League. In that game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nationals once again had to play from behind, as they were down 3-1 entering the eighth inning before a fielding error allowed them to score three runs and move on to the next round, where they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in extra innings of game five of the NLDS. The Dodgers proved to be their toughest postseason competitor to date, as their next matchup came against the St. Louis Cardinals, who they swept in four games before advancing to their first-ever World Series.

Which Offense Will Produce Runs Against This Elite Starting Pitching?

There’s no denying that both of these pitching staffs are top-notch and feature some of the best pitchers of our generation, but as a whole, the Houston Astros ranked third in the regular season in terms of ERA and first overall in quality starts, a fitting statistic for the Astros, as their starting rotation consists of just that – quality starters. With a veteran starting pitching staff consisting of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, I foresee the Nationals struggling to score runs, a similar problem the Yankees had in the ALCS against the Astros.

While Houston on the other hand, will also be facing touch pitching in the form of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, they were the MLB’s third-best offense in terms of run production (Twins and Yankees), second in doubles and third in home-runs. They also led a plethora of offensive categories too, as they ranked first-overall in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, wRC+,K% and BB% as well.

Both the Astros and Nationals ranked in the top-six in terms of runs scored. (MLB.com)

There’s one player that Houston can thank for it’s recent success and that is their second-basemen, Jose Altuve. After launching a walk-off home run against one of the MLB’s hardest throwing pitchers of all-time, Aroldis Chapman, Altuve punched the Astros ticket to their second World Series appearance in the last three years. Though he is just 29-years-old, he is one of the league’s most decorated players, with six all-star appearances, three batting titles, five silver slugger awards, an AL MVP (2017), an ALCS MVP (2019) and a World Series title already on his resume. He’s the leader of this franchise and continues to prove year-after-year why he is one of the MLB’s most dangerous offensive players.

While he is one of the best players the league has seen in recent years, the most unnerving thing for the Nationals is that Altuve may not even be the best player on this juggernaut of a team. The Astros formidable offense consists of a remarkable five players who batted better than .290 on the season, including one of the AL MVP candidates, third-basemen, Alex Bregman, who had a breakout season, batting .296 with 41 homers and 112 RBI’s in the regular season.

The Astros had five players who batted .290 or better in the 2019 regular season. (MLB.com)

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the Nationals and like most, I’m extremely surprised they were able to advance this far, but it’s inevitable that the MLB’s best offensive team, the Houston Astros will show more resistance than the historically-bad St. Louis Cardinals NLCS roster displayed against the Nationals and I believe that will be the deciding factor of this series.

Prediction: Houston Astros win the World Series 4-2.