Something pretty remarkable has happened while the vast majority of us have been asleep over the weekend just gone. The Houston Astros have done the unthinkable and won all three games of the 2019 World Series in Washington to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead as the two teams head back to Houston for the final act of the baseball season.
Whether that act is in one or two parts remains to be seen but there is an air of inevitability about the Astros progress to the title. The best team in baseball in terms of regular season won-loss record were pre-season favourites and few would back against them now.
But if all this seems to suggest an inevitability of the weekend’s games that was not the case on Friday when the majority of the baseball media were suggesting a sweep by the Nationals was a distinct possibility against a Houston side that wasn’t hitting and had seen its two ace pitchers Cole and Verlander vanquished at Minute Maid Park.
Thursday’s travel day seems to have been just the tonic the south Texas outfit needed. Scores of 4-1, 8-1 and 7-1 indicate the total dominance Houston have exerted and remarkably after being totally outplayed in a 12-4 shallacking in game 2 Houston have barely been challenged.
In game 3 the scoreline was a little misleading with Houston’s 11 hits only slightly eclipsing Washington’s 9 but the Nats were 0-10 with runners in scoring position and committed 2 errors in the field. Games 4 and 5 were far more convincing Houston having 13 hits on Saturday and 10 on Sunday against Washington’s 4 apiece.
When you have lost the first two at home the last thing you want to see as you try to turn things around is Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball in 2019 let alone a Cole on a mission after he lost game 1. 7 innings of 3 hit, 1 run ball was more than enough for the Astros especially as Washington’s own ace, Max Scherzer had pick up a neck injury before the game and was unable to make his scheduled start.
Cole may have pitched his last game for Houston as he is a free agent at the end of the season and is going to be worth a king’s ransom in the bidding war for his services. Ironically a contest which will almost price Houston out of the market. But Cole would do well to remember that he has improved significantly as a pitcher since joining the Astros in 2018.
Only 2 pitchers in all of baseball have more strikeouts than Cole since the start of 2017 and they could face each other in game 6. If Sherzer is recovered he will come up against Justin Verlander a man who’s post season record is poor in comparison to his stellar regular season record.
All that would be forgotten of course if Verlander can seal the deal on Tuesday evening. If he does not the World Series will be decided by a Game 7, one of the most enticing games in all sports. Remarkably it has happened four times this decade. The Astros were there in 2017 beating the LA Dodgers the 39th time it has happened, the year before the Chicago Cubs beat the Clevland Indians 8-7 in the 10th inning.
My favourite game 7 was in 2014 when San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner almost singlehandedly won the Championship for his side. Pitching in relief, on only two days rest (starting pitchers pitch once every five days during the regular season due to the abnormal demands the pitching action places on the arm) ,threw five innings (relief pitchers typically last only one inning maybe 2) of no hit ball to protect a one run lead against the Kansas City Royals.The chances of Cole doing a “Mad Bum” are