World Series 2019: Return of the Road Warriors


In both their 2017 World Series run and their 2018 ALCS season, the Astros were a terrific regular season road team. They were 53-28 (65%) in 2017 and tied with the Indians for the best road record in the majors and stepped it up to 57-24 (70%) in 2018 when they were 6 games better than the Boston Red Sox for the top road record. In 2019, they had a good road record at 47-34 (58%) but not near the other two years. They rode a pristine 60-21 home record to the best overall record in the majors and a club record 107-74 season.

But what happens during the regular season, does not always translate to the playoffs. In 2017, the road warrior Astros took a 2-0 lead at home in the ALCS and then got pushed to the point of elimination by the Yankees, who stoned them 3 straight games in the Bronx, before the Astros won the last two at home on their way to the World Series.
In a total reversal of that feat, the 2019 Astros, who were so good at home and above average on the road, painted themselves into a veritable corner by losing the first two games against the Washington Nationals at home. This caused the team to hold a players only meeting after Game 2 and to head to DC with the formidable task of staying alive in the series.

The Astros completely changed the series over a Lost Weekend for the Nats. Their 4-1 win on Friday meant the Astros would not be swept. Their 8-1 spanking of the Nats in Game 4, meant the series would be heading back to Houston for Game 5 on Tuesday. Their 7-1 win in Game 5 meant that the Astros would have two home game opportunities to put away the Nationals and claim their 2nd championship in three seasons.
So what happened in these three games?

Game 3 

Game 3 felt like one of those movies (think Freaky Friday) where two characters suddenly trade places. The foundation for those two road wins in Houston suddenly shifted for the Nats and the Astros rode the movement to a 4-1 lead.

In the first two games of the series, the Nationals offense had been a combination of a few timely long balls mixed in with soft contact hits finding open spaces. In game 3, the Astros first score was a Josh Reddick blooper to left that Carlos Correa took a risk from second and turned into a run on an airmail throw from Juan Soto. Then twice Michael Brantley hit singles that in the first two games might have been turned into outs by the Nats, that brought in Jose Altuve for the second and third runs. Then the run that was as much a psychological weapon as a physical one occurred as Robinson Chirinos, who had been brutal hitting in the ALCS swats a homer into the netting on the left field foul pole for the final 4-1 margin.

On the pitching side of the game, Zack Greinke channeled his inner Max Scherzer (at about 8 mph slower) as he allowed 7 hits and 3 walks in only 4-2/3 IP, but only let one run to score. The Nats who ate up the Astros with 2 out scoring the 1st two games left 12 on base in Game 3. The bullpen, led by understated hero Will Harris, held the Nats to only 2 hits in 4-1/3 innings of relief and the series momentum seemed to shift.

Game 4 

Game 4 looked like a pitching mismatch with young Jose Urquidy making his first post-season start against veteran Patrick Corbin for the Nats, who had pitched well as a starter (not so good as a reliever) in the post-season. As it turned out, the moment was not too big for Urquidy as he put up a brilliant 5 innings of 2 hit shutout baseball, where he got ahead and stayed ahead of the hitters and only used 67 pitches.

On the other side of the ledger, the Astros got out of the box fast with two runs in the first, including the awakening of Alex Bregman, who singled to knock in the first run. Hero from the first game, Chirinos doubled down with a two run homer to give Urquidy some breathing room and Bregman came back to stick a knife in the heart of the Nats hopes with a seventh inning grand slam. The slam allowed the Astros to give Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith and Ryan Pressly some rest this night.

Josh James stumbled taking over for Urquidy in the 6th, but Will Harris, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski cleaned up behind him and the Astros won 8-1 tying up the series.

Game 5 

If this game was Astro fans’ last view of Gerrit Cole in a Houston uniform, it was a heck of a performance. Prior to allowing Juan Soto’s second home run against him in the series, Cole had thrown 6 innings of 2 hit, shut out ball. He got out of the 7th inning with the umpire’s assistance (after the ump assisted the Nats with a walk on a borderline pitch the hitter before). There are just not very many pitchers, who bring the ball 98 mph and up in their last inning of pitching.

On a night where some of us (my hand is waving above my head) were wondering why A.J. Hinch had switched his successful lineup around to put Yordan Alvarez in left field, Alvarez proved Hinch’s faith in him. First he hit a 2 run homer in the 2nd inning and then he scored the third run of the game, riding home on Carlos Correa’s dinger in the 4th. Yuli Gurriel, who has been hitting in bad luck all post season, knocked in a run in the 8th to negate Soto’s home run and George Springer launched a two run homer off of Daniel Hudson in the 9th to take the mystery out of this one.

Joe Smith continued his string of good performances out of the bullpen with a shutout inning and Ryan Pressly looked a lot more like his healthy self in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close this 7-1 win out.

And Now….

All the Astros have to do now is win at home against the brilliant Stephen Strasburg in game 6 behind Justin Verlander or roll Zack Greinke out in a 7th game against Max Scherzer (if recovered from his neck issue) and/or the whole Nats staff. If the Astros can continue to have their hitters warm up and get into the Nats’ suspect bullpen another insane parade may be in the works for downtown Houston.

153 comments on “World Series 2019: Return of the Road Warriors

  1. Who will compete for an SP job next year alongside JV and ZG?

    – Will Lance McCullers, Jr. be back?
    – Will Felix Martes be back?
    – Will Jose ‘the Less’ Urquidy be ready to build upon his success in Game 5?
    – Will the real Bryan Abreu show up at ST?
    – Will Brad Peacock be back?
    – Will Wade Miley regain arm strength, confidence, and competitive spirit?
    – Will Forest Whitely keep his head on straight through the off-season and be ready to play with the big boys?
    – Is Colin McHugh still alive?

    The bad news is we still share a Spring Training facility with the Nationals. Time to develop a disinformation campaign. Make sure this year they see and know NOTHING about us, our 2020 strategies and approaches, or our signs. Give them zero looks at any pitcher they might actually see in a real game.

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    • -It was reported this week that LMJ is throwing off the mound and has ramped his fastball up to 90 mph.
      -Francis Martes is on the 40-man roster and should be in ST unless he isn’t.
      -I think Urquidy is in the starting pitcher mix.
      -The real Bryan Abreu will need better control.
      -I think the Astros would like to keep Peacock, considering they lose Rondon, Smith, McHugh and Harris to free agency.
      – Wade Miley is a free agent
      -I think if Whitley has a good offseason he gets an invite to major league camp.
      -McHugh was in the dugout for the WS. Today he becomes a free agent.

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  2. Okay, bullpen is a big priority for the off-season.

    Not only are Harris, Smith, Rondon, and McHugh all free agents, but:
    – Chris Devenski appears done;
    – Josh James was inconsistent this year and looked horrendous in the post-season;
    – Pressley had a great season but after his injury who knows what he will bring;
    – Osuna is a public relations nightmare – and while good against ordinary league competition, proved that he is not the kind of closer that can be counted on in high-profile championship contests;
    – Perez doesn’t have any better control/command than Abreu;
    – Valdez will dazzle you with stuff but [a] throw it for strikes, or [b] use it to get anybody out when it matters;
    – Biagnini is an absolute disaster waiting to happen;
    – Sneed is never going to be more than an innings eating long reliever in blow-out games;
    – Deetz showed us nothing in limited action in 2019;
    – Armenteros is steady and has good command, but doesn’t have 7th -8th- or 9th inning stuff;

    Summation: You thought we had bullpen issues this year?

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    • Since we have always had great rapport, lets continue:
      – I agree with you on Devenski. He will be 29 by ST, also, so it isn’t likely he will be better.
      -Josh James just completed his first season of MLB service. I think he has a chance to improve greatly as a reliever.
      – I think Pressley will have arthoscopic surgery to remove that loose scar tissue and will be ready to go.
      -Perez will be 24 in April and Abreu will turn 23 in April. I like their stuff and would love for them to be good enough to make our bullpen next season. They absolutely pitched like rookies because they were rookies on a contending team where the bullpen was mostly guys in their early to mid 30’s. Were they ever given enough time to get used to the pressure. They have to be given a chance to settle into a role.
      – Agree with you on Valdez, Sneed, Deetz, Armenteros and Biagini. But there are others in the system.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I did NOT watch after they got the lead. I just couldn’t watch them celebrating in our house.
    NO manager is 100% right….100% of the time.
    We have been watching these guys score only one, or two runs in a game a LOT this year.
    These guys have no one to blame but themselves…..sorry… not sorry.
    Will Harris cried his heart out after his inning blew up.
    Garrit Cole wasted no time distancing himself from the Astros after it was over, he clearly wants to put this season behind him…and doesn’t expect a contract from Jim Crane.
    It’s time to figure out where Kyle Tucker fits in on this team.
    I can imagine how Hinch felt looking out in the bullpen trying to figure out who he can count on…as we saw not too many.
    I fully expect these guys to come to spring training, with clear eyes and ready to reach the world series again in 2020.
    Bregman’s grandfather passed away yesterday afternoon…..before the game.
    *You can’t win if you don’t hit.
    Dr.’s appointment at 1:00…….talk to you folks later.

    Liked by 4 people

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