The World Series gets underway Tuesday as the surprising Nationals look to continue their Cinderella run from the Wild Card game through to the championship, while the Astros look to finish their impressive season with their second World Series title in the past three years. In 2017, Houston beat the Dodgers in seven games to earn its first World Series title, and Washington will be looking to pull off the same accomplishment after making the World Series for the first time in its 50-year history.
The two teams are a study in contrasts in many ways, since the Astros were everyone’s pick to be here and the Nationals were no one’s pick. It’s a little bit of the expected vs. the unexpected, but it should result in a good series with the hot team from Washington taking on the well-rounded, deep squad from Houston. We get things going Tuesday with a great pitching matchup as both teams send its top starting pitcher to the mound. Gerrit Cole ($12,000) and Max Scherzer ($11,400) will both be in the running for their respective league’s Cy Young awards this year, and both will take on tough lineups that are hitting the ball well coming into the series.
Weather won’t be a factor thanks to the roof at Minute Maid Park in Houston, so let’s take a look at the factors you should consider as you get your Showdown squad ready for the first game of the World Series.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The ‘Inning 1 OVER 0.5 runs’ market has hit in each of the Astros’ past four games.
— The Nationals have led after 3 innings in each of their past four games as underdogs.
— Nine of the Nationals’ past 10 games against AL West opponents have gone UNDER the total runs line.
— The Astros have won the first inning in each of their past three Tuesday home games against NL East opponents.
— The Nationals have won each of their past six games.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Manager A.J. Hinch pulled off the clinching win on a bullpen day in Game 6 against the Yankees, which allows him to bring Cole to the mound in Game 1. He has been outstanding throughout the offseason with a 0.40 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP and an impressive 32 punchouts in 22 2/3 innings. He has more than 28 DKFP in all three of his postseason starts and has at least that many in 12 straight starts dating back to the regular season. The Astros haven’t lost a game Cole has started since July and have gone an astounding 27-3 in his past 30 outings. Cole didn’t face the Nationals this season but is 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA in six career starts against them.
The Astros’ lineup has been pretty consistent in spots 1-through-7 so far this postseason with seven players appearing in all 11 games. Jose Altuve ($9,600) has been the team’s hottest hitter, going 15-for-43 (.349) with three doubles and five home runs, including the walk-off winner against the Yankees. He is just 2-for-11 in his career against Scherzer, but he’s hot enough still to be a good investment if you can afford his salary.
A much cheaper option who has been hitting in the heart of the order is Michael Brantley ($5,600), who is 11-for-42 (.262) in the playoffs with a home run and actually has had good success against Scherzer in the past, going 15-for-44 (.341) with eight doubles, a triple, a home run and a 1.004 OPS. Another cost-saving option to consider is Josh Reddick ($4,400), who has gone 5-for-11 (.455) against Scherzer with a triple.
Alex Bregman ($9,200), George Springer ($9,000), Carlos Correa ($6,800), Yuli Gurriel ($6,000) and Yordan Alvarez ($7,200) are all potent bats but haven’t been at their best in the playoffs. All of them bring power potential but have scuffled lately, making them risky plays.
If you need to dive into the bargain bin, Martín Maldonado ($4,000) caught Cole in his most recent start and has gone 4-for-13 (.308) in his four postseason games. You also could check out the bullpen, where Will Harris ($3,000) and Robert Osuna ($3,000) each have picked up a save this postseason. Harris has been the most effective arm out of the bullpen, allowing just three hits and no runs in 5 2/3 innings. Both Harris and Osuna have appeared in seven of Houston’s 11 postseason games.
While Washington doesn’t have an ace quite as dominant as Cole, Scherzer has been locked in during the playoffs. He has pitched in four games and allowed just four runs in 20 innings for a 1.80 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. He has 27 strikeouts in those 20 innings and has held opponents to a .134 average. During the regular season, Scherzer was 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings. He had a rocky September but has turned things around when the Nationals needed him most. He hasn’t pitched in Houston since 2014 and is 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three career outings at Minute Maid Park. Scherzer should be a good source of strikeouts but has been a little prone to giving up home runs at times this season.
The Nationals’ lineup has been paced all year by Anthony Rendon ($9,400), who, like Cole, is poised to break the bank this offseason as a free agent. Rendon has kept crushing this postseason, going 12-for-32 (.375) with four doubles a home run and a 1.059 OPS. Trea Turner ($8,800) has continued to be the spark plug from the top of the lineup, going 12-for-42 (.286) with three walks. It is worth noting, though, that Turner and the rest of the Nats have yet to attempt a stolen base in the postseason. Against Cole, Rendon has had limited success, going 5-for-13 (.385) while Turner is 2-for-5 (.400).
If you’re looking for high-upside plays, Juan Soto ($8,400) and Howie Kendrick ($7,600) make sense but have been hit-or-miss this postseason. It’s hard to trust too many of the Nationals’ bats in the tough matchup with Cole, though, so I’d look for more value plays here than big investments. Ryan Zimmerman ($4,800) has been riding the wave of nostalgia as “Mr. National” but also producing solid numbers, with a .290 average and four extra-base hits in his nine games. Michael A. Taylor ($4,400) is another cheap player who has stepped up, going 6-for-20 (.300) with a key home run. If he gets another start, he offers some solid salary relief. Based on their current form and the matchup, I’d stay away from Brian Dozier ($4,600), Kurt Suzuki ($5,000) and Adam Eaton ($5,400).
There are some interesting arms in the Nationals’ bullpen that could offer salary relief as well, although they have spread around the workload a bit more than the Astros. Sean Doolittle ($3,000) and Daniel Hudson ($7,600) both have pitched in six games with Hudson having better results, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings and even picking up a win out of the ‘pen. Since Doolittle is so much cheaper, though, I’d probably go with him if you’re deploying someone from the Washington bullpen.
The starting pitching matchup is outstanding, but I’m leaning toward the Astros given how locked in Cole ($18,000 CP) has been. He costs a ton as a Captain’s Pick, but you can work around him if you use Harris, Maldonado and some of the other cheaper plays in your utility spots. If you opt instead to go with a more balanced approach, Brantley ($8,400 CP) is my favorite option given his history against Scherzer and steady production.
You actually can fit both starting pitchers and their big strikeout potential onto your roster if you go with Brantley, Reddick ($6,600 CP) or Zimmerman ($7,200 CP) as your Captain’s Pick and then blend in some value. Cole should be included in just about any lineup construction, and I’d be careful about loading up on too many Nationals bats since their offense could be extremely limited.
Final Score: Houston 3, Washington 0
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