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Can heavily-favoured Astros beat the underdog Nats?


It is said that pitching wins championships.
The Washington Nationals are proving that is indeed the case, at least in the National League Championship Series.
The Nationals may have surprised a few people by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games, but the way they did it may have a few picking them to win it all.
Anibal Sanchez started it off, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of game one. The Washington ace Max Scherzer had a no-no going into the seventh inning of game two.
Game three starter Stephen Strasbourg gave up seven hits in seven innings, but only one went for extra bases and he struck out 12 while not allowing a walk.
In game four, the Nationals jumped out to a 7-0 lead after the first inning, but had some nervous moments after that when the Cards got to the starter Patrick Corbin, who allowed four runs in five innings, despite recording 12 Ks.
In all, Washington starters went 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA and a .141 opponents average, with 40 strikeouts and just six walks, giving up four earned runs in 26.2 innings pitched.
The Nationals’ hurlers will face their toughest test of the postseason in the World Series, where they face the Houston Astros.
Houston led the majors in batting, hitting .274 as a team in the regular season. They were third in runs scored with 920 and third in home runs with 288.
Washington, meanwhile, was sixth in average at .265 and in runs scored with 873, while placing 13th with 231 homers.
Houston had the best record in baseball with 107 wins, while Washington captured the first wildcard spot in the National League, finishing with 93 victories.
On paper, the ‘Stros look to be the favourite to win their second World Series title in three years. But that is on paper.
In 1990, the Cincinnati Reds swept the heavily favoured Oakland A’s.
The same could happen again this year if Washington’s pitchers can come close to repeating what they did to St. Louis in the NLCS.
Not to take anything away from Houston’s pitchers. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zach Greinke are counted among the best pitchers in baseball and they will have to be at the top of their game.
This is a series where I will be happy no matter which team wins.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Astros were Major League Baseball’s doormats, with three straights seasons of more than 100 losses, including 111 just six years ago, their first in the American League.
Now, 2019 was Houston’s third straight with 100 plus wins and they have become perennial contenders.
Washington, of course, used to be the Montreal Expos. Some people will cheer for them for that reason, myself included, while others will cheer against them for that reason.
The World Series gets underway tonight in Houston. Enjoy the ride. I know I will.

Doug Zywina