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. THIS:
    These guys pushed the division series to the VERY last game..and won it.
    They pushed the ALCS nearly to the last out and won it.
    Here we are at those cross road again scoring *2* runs last night.
    I don’t think I’m gonna watch tonight….they push my blood pressure too much.
    I have to keep reminding myself that they won 107 games this year, and they aren’t here by accident. After tonight is over, there will be a LOT to talk about, I hope it’s about another championship.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t copy the Joe Buck Astros Bingo in here – but here are the squares in the bingo card you would check off while listening to the broadcast

    “LOCKED IN”
    MENTIONS ALTUVE’S HEIGHT
    LAYS OUT NATS PATH TO VICTORY
    “I’M JUST THE PLAY BY PLAY GUY HERE”
    REPEATS SOMETHING SMOLTZ LITERALLY JUST SAID
    COMPLIMENTS MARTINEZ TWICE BEFORE MENTIONING HINCH ONCE CRITICIZES THE ASTROS PITCHER
    BASICALLY CHEERS FOR THE NATS
    “CAN’T ASSUME THE ASTROS CAN HOLD ON TO THE LEAD”
    MENTIONS TURNER’S BROKEN FINGERS
    TALKS ABOUT THE YANKEES
    “THE SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR THIS GUY” (TALKING ABOUT A NATS PLAYER)
    FREE SPACE
    COMPLIMENTS NATS WHILE ASTROS SCORE
    BLAMES BALL, FIELD OR WEATHER FOR ASTROS HIT
    ASKS STUPID HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION
    SHOWS HIMSELF IN THE BOOTH
    GETS ASTRO PLAYER’S NAME WRONG
    GOES ON AND ON ABOUT RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION
    SELLS TACO BELL
    MENTIONS SOTO’S AGE OR BIRTHDAY
    REFEENCES BABY SHARK
    CALLS FOR A CLOSER IN THE 6TH OR 7TH INNING
    SAYS SOMEONE FAMOUS TEXTED HIM
    “SETTLED IN”

    Like

  3. Any thoughts on why all the national announcers seem to literally hate anything Astros?
    I can sort of understand them pulling for the Yanks, Red Sox, or Dodgers but Washington?
    I don’t believe it’s because they’ve never won. The Astros got zero respect in 17.

    Like

    • Sandy – I may step on some toes here but things that occur to me:
      – We are in flyover country – we are not on either coast or in the northeast corridor (which includes DC)
      – They think we are political yeehaws – not the intelligentsia of these other places
      – They think we rebuilt the wrong way. They think we came in last place on purpose – drafted first three times and voila we were a contender
      – They think we are semi-cheaters who “stole” our way to a World Championship by taking tip stealing to another level
      – They really hate us for picking up Osuna and they really hate that we had to be forced to send Taubman packing by the media
      – They think we are punks and deserve a come-uppance
      – They resent having to come way down here away from their cozy homes on the coast for games

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s analytics. No, I don’t mean they hate us because the organization got on the analytics craze early on. Their entire livelihood is built around audience engagement. The numbers show that people love tuning into the Astros-bashing storyines.

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  4. I know it’s probably too much to expect, but I’d sure like to see runs early and often. A three run lead would be huge for Greinke. If he gives us what he gave on Friday, then I’m good with that and we probably are too, with Cole in the mix. But we’ve got to do more than first inning scoring. Take control and don’t let up.

    Liked by 1 person

      • After Yuli’s HR….,The Astros get two guys on – inexplicably have Chirinos pop up a bunt (why bunt with Reddick on deck) and then have George smoke one to Soto that he almost misplays.
        Sick of having so many line drives snagged

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  5. I’m not sure Zack realizes it…..but the fans are showing him some BIG love tonight! With all the guys we’ve had on so far, it’s really exasperating to only have *1* measly run. I keep hoping one of these guys will drive in a couple, but not yet. Sanchez is up in the bullpen. BUT….Greinke is rolling along!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Zanuda, you know with the luxury of hindsight, Hinch could have handed the ball to Cole to start the 7th. And then we would have condemned him for pulling Greinke if Cole had a bad inning.

    We’ve got the heart of the order coming up. This is our moment of truth.

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    • Hind site had nothing to do with it. I told others that it was a mistake to take him out. If there Hans been no more runs scored I’d admit I was wrong. Been there before.

      Like

  7. Lifeless half assed ending to what had been a great season . One more inning you say? Nah it’s over.

    Very disappointed. Guess this was Washington’s Cinderella season

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hinch can’t swing the bat and get hits, and score runs. I was critical of taking Grienke out of the game but when it comes right down to it we didn’t hit at home. What a disappointment to all the fans that paid to come see us lose all four home games. I’m happy for the season we had but we should have won the WS.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. But Zanuda, I have to say that Hinch should have had his best arm out there in an attempt to keep it a one run game. I hate that we are getting blown out of a game that we needed 9 outs to win a World Series.

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  9. Well instead of being angry at the lack of energy I saw from the Astros I’ll be happy for the Nationals instead. They deserved it more this year

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  10. Dan, I am ready and willing to start talking about the 2020 Astros.
    We have said everything that can be said about the 2019 Astros.
    Ready for the next chapter.

    Like

  11. No way I can sleep now. Never have I experienced a more painful loss as a sports fan. A one hit shutout with 8 outs to go turned on a dime. Greinke was fantastic, but maybe that third time through the lineup gave Rendon the edge he needed. And I don’t think Harris threw a bad pitch to Kendrick. He was overdue. But like I said, I would have had Cole start the 8th to keep it a one run game. Somehow I feel that Cole is wondering right now why he was not called on. But one last time, we just could not score runs in our home park. Really, our bats sputtered throughout the post season more often than not. From Wild Card to World Series Champions, you’ve got to give the Washington Nationals credit. They were the best team when it counted.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Reasons for Astros fans to celebrate today – despite having not ‘taken it back’:

    1. We don’t have to listen to Joe Buck’s inane drivel, or hear Alex Rodriguez spewing hatred of all things Astro, again for a long, long time!
    2. By next year, the Nationals’ resident *#!-hole Soto will no longer be 21 years old any more.
    3. That arrogant, hot-headed team whose fans actually interrupted a baseball game to chant ‘Lock Him Up’ at a President who had come out to show his support for them, and whose manager had a humiliating total wheels-off melt-down in Game 6, now have to go home and live in one of the nastiest, most disgusting cities and hostile environments in the world – while we prosper in fly-over country.
    4. We now know for certain that ‘home field advantage’ is not what it is cracked up to be.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Well, I tried to sleep. For some reason, people around here start calling before 7 in the morning. Never have gotten used to it. I should turn my phone off, but I’ve got to be available in case something controversial.

    Anyway, it seems the love affair between Cole and the Astros is over. He was pissed off last night. Did not want to talk to the press. Pronounced himself unemployed. Seems he wanted to get the ball when Greinke gave it up. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea. And I can’t get on Hinch, but he sure is taking a lot of grief this morning as to how he managed those last three fateful innings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s Hinch’s job to answer for the decisions. The moves didn’t work and should be questioned if he also gets credit when they work. I hate to put the blame on any one thing. It was a great series, at least. Here are my thoughts:

      1. That Kendrick ball sure jumped like it was juiced
      2. Smith didn’t field his position smoothly and Gomes beat Altuve’s throw to first on a prospective double play in the ninth. Turn that and we probably go to the bottom half down 2 instead of 4. Lingering effect from the injury?
      3. Corbin got the outs for WAS, but he sure looked hittable to me. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.
      4. Smoltz was awful this series, but had a really great point as he was congratulating Washington before the game was over. They beat Hader, Kershaw, Verlander, and Greinke in elimination games. That’s ridiculous and deserving of praise.
      5. I questioned whether Brantley would be an effective LF and hit LHP when we signed him. We was great for us all year. He didn’t hit the ball hard off LHP, but was still more effective than what are other options likely would have been. It’s a shame he had to make the last out last night – he certainly deserved better.
      6. Lots of people hate ARod. He’s a front-runner and jumps on whichever bandwagon sports the hotter team/player. Whatever – at least he’ll never make the HOF.

      I’m glad we get to see Greinke and Verlander again next year. I don’t see how we can bring back Cole. If anyone knows his wife please call and try to convince her that they need to stay in Houston.

      Liked by 1 person

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