The Vanderbilt Hustler 2019 World Series Roundtable

As the Houston Astros prepare to host the Washington Nationals in Game One of the 2019 Fall Classic and Hustler staff gives its thoughts on the series.


Vanderbilt Hustler Staff

The World Series is upon us, and it pins the juggernaut Houston Astros against the upstart underdog Washington Nationals. Unlike last year’s series that featured former VandyBoys David Price and Walker Buehler, this series is devoid of former Commodore talent.

Nevertheless, as the series is set to get underway, the Vanderbilt Hustler sports staff shared its thoughts on the matchup.

Max Schneider, Sports Editor

To start off the NLCS, against all odds, Nationals pitcher Aníbal Sánchez dominated the Cardinals, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to a win. The very next day, Max Scherzer followed suit, taking a no-no into the seventh. The pair of outings marked just the second time in MLB postseason history that two teammates tossed back-to-back starts of at least five hitless innings. The only other time: back in 2013 in the ALCS when — you guessed it — Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer pitched for the Detroit Tigers. 

That’s been the secret for the Nationals this postseason, and it’s the reason we shouldn’t be surprised to see an Astros-Nats World Series. In an era of bullpen games and home run barrages, starting pitching is and always will be the key to winning in October. Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Sánchez have shown that for Washington. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke have done so for Houston. So what separates these two teams?

Houston has the more talented roster. There’s no doubt about that. This might be the best roster we’ve seen in decades. But they’re not the hottest team in baseball; that distinction belongs to the Washington Nationals. This team is simply on fire, scoring runs in bunches against great pitching while the Astros have struggled to get past the Rays and my underperforming Yankees. Who needs Bryce Harper when you have 37-year old NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick hitting .344 in the regular season and .417 in the postseason? Who needs Bryce Harper when you have 20-year old Juan Soto smashing game-winning hits in clutch moments? Soto will be legally allowed to drink starting Friday, and if the Nats win this series, it’ll be one hell of an afterparty. Gimme the Nats in five.

Simon Gibbs, Deputy Sports Editor

To quote esteemed Vanderbilt Hustler alumnus Tyler Kepner, “The biggest problem with the Yankees is that they are [winning 100+ games] in an era that belongs to the Astros.” Kepner hit the nail on the head. Much to my amusement (yes, I’m a Mets fan), the Houston Astros eliminated the New York Yankees, solidifying their dominance once more. Is that why I’m rooting for them? Well, in part. Do they have the opportunity to beat the Nationals, a Mets division rival, in the same postseason that they sent home that team from the Bronx? You bet. 

But in all seriousness, this Astros team is an absolute force to be reckoned with. They boast an MLB-leading six All-Stars (excluding José Altuve, who, for the first time in six years did not make the All-Star team, but still hit nearly .300), and to add insult to opponents’ injury, they bostered their already unfair pitching staff at the trade deadline by snagging Zack Greinke, likely a future Hall of Famer. Their staff is so stacked that Greinke took a backseat to studs like Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, who strikeout a gargantuan 39.9 percent and 35.4 percent of opposing batters, respectively. Their pitching staff is just unfair, and I think it’ll be no different versus the Nationals. Ultimately, I’ll take the Astros in six games over the Nationals, a franchise that’s never even made a World Series.

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

The last time the Astros played in the World Series in 2017, I wrote about Houston’s sad sports history full of near-misses, save for two Rockets titles in 1994 and 1995. Thankfully, Houston sports have turned it around lately, but still, only the Astros have made it to their league’s finals. As a native Houstonian, my pick for this series was always going to be the Astros, but I also think the Astros match up favorably against the Nationals. Houston’s three-man rotation is the best in baseball, and its bullpen was able to shut down the Yankees in Game Six of the ALCS as a de facto fourth starter. The pitching depth of the Astros will help them win their second title in three years. Plus, a mattress salesman and Houston hero Jim McIngvale bet $3.5 million on the Astros before the playoffs began, and “Mattress Mack” added another $1 million to his bet just a few days ago. I have just as much confidence in the Astros as “Mattress Mack,” just not a couple extra million dollars lying around to bet on them. Astros in five.

Rachel Friedman, Editor in Chief

For anyone that knows me, they know sports are really not my thing. But, when it comes to baseball, I can throw in my two cents. I’m a longtime Yankee fan, so the Astros are already a problem for me given their postseason victory over the Yankees. I’m also from Washington, D.C., which solidifies my support for the Nats victory in their World Series debut. Add in the fact that the team won their division without former star Bryce Harper, and I’m all in for the Nats.

Hunter Long, Assistant Photo Editor

 I’m honestly still in shock that the Washington Nationals have made it this far. Having a 19-31 record is really not the way you want to start out in search of a playoff bid. However, the National pulled it out, even without Bryce Harper… somehow. Now, after having beaten the Dodgers, the perennial powerhouse of the National League, there’s no denying that they are hot. The question really becomes whether they can stay hot against the Goliath that is the Houston Astros. 

Now, I must admit there is some bias here (being from Texas, I’m an Astros fan through and through) but I’m honestly not sure the Nationals will be able to keep up the same level of output that they have throughout the playoffs. In the World Series, the starting pitchers can dictate everything, especially if they are hot. For me, I’ll take the Astros rotation (Cole, Verlander and Greinke) over the Nationals starters (Strasburg, Scherzer, Corbin and Sanchez) any day. 

For me, The Houston starting pitchers combined with the collective firepower of their batting, gives them an edge over the Nationals. While it might be a close series, Washington will be outmatched by the 107-win Juggernaut that the Houston Astros are. 

It’s Houston’s time, we’ll just have to see if they can take it back. Astros in Six.

Immanual John Milton, Deputy Campus Editor

Being from Minnesota, I have consistently experienced pain from the Yankees kicking out the Minnesota Twins. Anytime I believe that we have a shot of winning or going far in the playoffs (we had the most home runs in one season for all of baseball history this year!), we always run up against the buzzsaw that is the New York Yankees. Thus, after my Twins get destroyed by the Yankees, I adopt the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” philosophy and turn from a Twins fan to a fan of the team that is playing the Yankees. This year that happens to be the Houston Astros. Even though I have respect for the Washington Nationals after they beat the Dodgers and Cardinals even after losing Bryce Harper to free agency, I have to support the team that beats the Yankees. Aside from my personal feelings, the Astros have superior pitching (Greinke, Verlander and Cole) and unbelievable clutch hitting with Altuve and Gurriel. I think this is where the Cinderella story ends for the Nationals. Astros in five.

Justin Hershey, Staff Writer

 If you had told me before this season that the Nationals, after losing their MVP Bryce Harper to my hometown Philadelphia Phillies, would make the World Series, I would have said you were crazy.  However, much to my frustration, Bryce and the Phillies are sitting at home while his former team is set to play the Astros in the World Series. The Nats have looked phenomenal all postseason, from Strasburg and Scherzer to the powerful 1-2 punch of Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon. But they are about to run into an absolute juggernaut. Although both the Cardinals and Dodgers featured talented pitchers, the Nats will be challenged even more by the combination of Cole, Verlander, and Greinke in the first three games of this series. This Astros staff coupled with the momentum of Jose Altuve’s epic walk-off home run against the Yankees, will help them claim their second World Series in three years. And in response to the loss, Anthony Rendon will follow his former teammate Bryce Harper to the City of Brotherly Love during free agency this offseason. Stros in five.

Will Fritzler, Staff Writer

This World Series offers two starkly different team narratives: one a perennial modern contender in the Astros, the other a spunky underdog in the Nationals. The Astros boast perhaps the best trio of starting pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zach Greinke — in the majors and a bevy of offensive stars like Jose Altuve and George Springer, not to mention a championship pedigree having won the title in 2017. But the Nationals have caught lightning in a bottle and play with a swagger that comes less from statistical strength than gutsy performances and an appetite for big moments. While all signs point to Houston winning this series and returning to the hilltop, I’m a sucker for underdogs, and there’s something exciting about the nation’s capital winning another title after the Capitals last year. Nationals in six.

Christopher Hugh, Staff Writer

Most of the time, jokes fail to even bring a smile to my face. But if you told me that the Washington Nationals would be vying for the 2019 World Series title a few months ago, I would have laughed out loud. Much to my surprise, following their dismal 19-31 start, the Nationals have miraculously turned around what seemed to be a lost season. A World Series title for the Nats would be the perfect ending to their storybook journey, but the ultimate prize doesn’t look to be in the cards. 

Although both teams boast unbelievable starting rotations, the Astros bullpen is far superior to that of Washington’s. Nationals relievers have stepped up their game in the postseason, but there’s always the possibility that they crumble under pressure and return to their league-worst ways. Keep in mind that the Nationals bullpen posted a 5.66 ERA during the regular season and have far less playoff experience than the Astros. Houston also holds a slight edge in the hitting department thanks to big bats like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who have combined for 7 home runs and 14 RBI in October alone. In a postseason where the “dead” ball is having trouble leaving the yard, pure power figures to play a large role in determining the winner of the series. Look for the ‘Stros to get the last laugh over the course of a gritty six-game series, establishing themselves as baseball’s newest dynasty. 

Luke Mukundan, Staff Writer

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is largely dictated by momentum, especially in October. Any team has the ability to catch fire at any given moment. This year, that team is the Washington Nationals, who will represent the National League in the World Series. Heading into this season, the Nationals were largely written off due to the departure of the face of their franchise, Bryce Harper. However, the Nationals beat the odds and made the playoffs, ironically beating out Harper’s new team, the Philadelphia Phillies, for a Wild Card spot. Since then, the Nationals have continued to defy expectations. After taking care of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Game, the Nationals defeated the favored Los Angeles Dodgers, and then swept the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals have the makings of a team of destiny, but that may not be enough to take care of their upcoming opponent.

The Houston Astros have been the best team in all of baseball this year, winning a league-leading 107 games. The Astros defeated an upstart Tampa Bay Rays team in five games before defeating the New York Yankees in six after a Jose Altuve walk-off homerun that will go down in baseball legend. The Astros have one of the best rosters from top to bottom in the league as well, with no real weak spot anywhere in the lineup. Furthermore, Houston has one of the best starting rotations in recent memory in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Grienke. On paper, there is no reason to believe that this Astros team cannot win its second title in three years. However, like I said, momentum is such an important factor in the MLB playoffs, especially in the World Series.

While the Astros have been a juggernaut all year long, the Nationals have gotten hot at just the right time. Anthony Rendon and co. are playing the best baseball of their lives right now and it’ll be difficult for the Astros to surpass that on sheer talent. That being said, I do believe that the Astros will still win the World Series, as they just seem like the better team at the end of the day. I expect that the Nationals will win Game One and Game Three, the latter of which will be the first game of the World Series hosted in Washington, D.C., but otherwise lose out in six games.

Jaime Perez, Staff Writer

The Houston Astros were the best team in baseball during the regular season. The Washington Nationals have been the best team in October. This year’s World Series will be a great matchup between overpowering talent versus perfectly-timed momentum. The Astros boast arguably the MLB’s best three-man pitching rotation with Verlander, Cole, and Greinke, but the Nationals might very well have the second best rotation with Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin. Both pitching staffs have been solid throughout the postseason; the main difference between the franchises this postseason is that the Astros– who had the best offense in the league during the regular season– have been inconsistent and (relatively) subdued at the plate, while the Nationals have outperformed expectations batting-wise. If this trend continues, the Nationals should win the World Series. 

Yet, the Astros have been timely, getting hits and home runs when they need them the most. In 2017, the Astros batting also went cold during the postseason, but they always found a way to win and they eventually took home the title. I think history will repeat itself. The Astros have so many great players, one or two always step up when it matters. Altuve, Springer, Bregman, Correa, and Gurriel have all won rings and proven that they are not afraid of the moment. While we might not get an all-time classic World Series like we did in 2017, I think we will witness several intense, tight games that could go either way. I’m picking the ‘Stros in six, with Jose Altuve adding a World Series MVP to his collection.

Ethan Stern, Staff Writer

What makes this World Series matchup so exciting are the pitchers duels we are about to witness between the Nationals and Astros, who donned the second and third best starter ERAs in the league respectively. Pitching coach Brent Strom has turned around the careers of Verlander and Cole, who are arguably the 2 best starters in the MLB. Zack Greinke has proven to be a great midseason acquisition in his own right. On the other hand, the Nationals starting rotation has become a 4-headed monster of guys who are all on a roll. There are only a handful of pitchers, if any, who have been as dominant as Max Scherzer has been in recent years, and his performance hasn’t declined in October. Stephen Strasburg is coming off a great season, but this postseason he has become nearly unhittable. Lefty Patrick Corbin has been lights out, and Anibal Sanchez has resurrected his career and thrown some gems this postseason.

The Astros are arguably the most well-rounded team I’ve seen in years. Along with their elite starting pitching, their lineup was the best in the league according to several stats. Any of their first four hitters in the lineup — Springer, Altuve, Brantley, and Bregman — could be the best hitter on an average team, and facing this part of the lineup has proven to be a challenge. Once you get past these four, you face Yuli Gurriel, who is coming off a career year, followed by ROY frontrunner Yordan Alvarez and star shortstop Carlos Correa, who could probably bat third on most other teams. Their bullpen is elite as well and along with the popular names, guys like Josh James and Joe Smith have stepped up in the postseason. On the other hand, the Nationals have been on an exceptional run, most recently demolishing the Cardinals in four games. Along with their incredible rotation, MVP-candidate Anthony Rendon, youngster Juan Soto, and the red-hot Howie Kendrick have proven to be great pieces of the offense. With this in mind, the Nationals lack two aspects of the game that the Astros excel in: relief pitching and the back of the lineup. The Nationals don’t have many good bullpen arms with the exception of Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, and while their lineup is solid 1-9, it does not match the starpower of the Astros.

Overall, I think this will be a great series. I think this will be a close series, going all seven games and ending with the Astros bringing home the World Series trophy for the second time in three seasons.