MLB World Series Game Live :: My game plan isn’t to go in and strike out 13-14 guys a game,” Cole said Saturday, per AFP’s Jim Slater (h/y Yahoo). “My game plan is to try to execute the pitches. If I execute them at a high level and pick the right ones at the right times, my stuff allows me to get swing and miss. If you’re a team that doesn’t do that, maybe you just swing and miss less.”
The Houston Astros avoided a likely insurmountable 3-0 deficit in the 2019 World Series with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night. Now they’ll try to level MLB’s championship series at two wins apiece with a second straight road win at Nationals Park on Saturday.
Washington, which survived the NL Wild Card Game with a triumph over the Milwaukee Brewers, had won eight consecutive games dating back to its NLDS clash with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nats swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Although the Nationals came up short in Game 7, it wasn’t a poor performance. They generated 14 baserunners (nine hits and five walks) against the Astros’ pitchers, led by starter Zack Greinke. On defense, the Nats’ bullpen—a source of much consternation during the regular season—pitched 3.2 scoreless innings.
The loss came down to a lack of a clutch hit or two (0-10 with runners in scoring position) and having their No. 4 starter on the mound in Anibal Sanchez (four earned runs in 5.1 innings).
“Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone,” Washington manager Dave Martinez told reporters. “We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we’ve been doing.”
Game 7 could very well end up being the turning point in the World Series.
The Nationals will send Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA) to the pitcher’s rubber, while the Astros will resort to a bullpen game with Jose Urquidy (2-1, 3.95 ERA) getting the start.
A Houston victory would not only even the series at 2-2 but also set the stage for the team’s three aces (Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Greinke) to pitch the remaining games on normal or extended rest.
Even though the Nats have their one dynamic one-two punch atop the rotation in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Astros would likely regain favorite status with a win in Game 7.
Washington’s plate discipline, which Martinez critiqued after Game 3, will be crucial Saturday night.
While Urquidy spent most of the season as a starter, splitting time between the Astros and the minor leagues, his last extended outing came Sept. 27 against the Los Angeles Angels. It’s unlikely he’s stretched out enough to pitch deep into Game 7.
The further the Nationals get into the Astros’ bullpen, the better their chances to take advantage of some of the lesser-used, less-reliable arms.
Expect a contest that comes right down to the wire, and don’t be surprised if the winner of Game 7 goes on to win the series, regardless of which team comes out on top Saturday.
Cole put himself in the 2019 American League Cy Young award conversation by going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and an MLB-high 326 strikeouts in a career-high 212.2 innings during the regular season.
He upped his game even further early on this postseason, going 3-0 while allowing just one run on 10 hits in 22.2 innings in his first three starts.
He entered the World Series on one of the most dominant runs by a pitcher ever, going 19-0 with a 1.59 ERA over a 25-start stretch from May 27 to Oct. 15.
Unfortunately for him, his luck ran out in Game 1. After being handed a 2-0 lead in the first, he allowed five runs on eight hits in seven innings. His six strikeouts were his fewest since Aug. 1, with 12 starts coming between those outings.
Houston has to be wondering whether that rocky start was just an aberration or whether the star has run out of gas.
The good news for the Astros is that any time Cole has allowed four or more earned runs in a start this season (five previous occasions), he has responded by allowing no more than two runs in his next outing. Then again, not once did he face the same team in his next start.
Also of note, Houston has not last back-to-back Cole starts since April. He has made 31 starts during that span.
Having spent the first five years of his career in the National League with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole has some experience pitching at Nationals Park. He is 1-2 with a 4.41 ERA in three career outings in Washington, with his most recent appearance coming in September 2017.
Washington Nationals’ Probable Pitcher: RHP Max Scherzer
Washington could not ask for a much better situation for Game 5, as it sends its ace to the mound at home with a chance to take a 3-2 series lead to Houston.
Scherzer has put together an incredible postseason run, going 3-0 while allowing a total of six runs in 25 innings, spanning five appearances. Though he only went five innings in Game 1, he outdueled Cole while holding Houston scoreless over his final four frames.