The 2019 World Series gets underway on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with the Houston Astros taking on the Washington Nationals. Here are the storylines to track entering the World Series.
Nationals' long layoff
After sweeping the Cardinals, the Nats will have had a full week of rest between Game 4 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series. While the rest could be good for players on the mend, like Victor Robles, the worry is that Washington will lose momentum after such a long layoff. Meanwhile, the Astros enjoyed only two days of rest between Game 6 of the ALCS and the World Series.
The pending free agents
The pending free agents for the Astros and Nationals are also likely to be the headliners this offseason. Gerrit Cole could earn a record-breaking contract after his amazing 2019 season, while Anthony Rendon will also become much richer after an MVP-level season. Stephen Strasburg can opt out of his contract following the World Series, and Daniel Hudson should have far more interest in his services than he did last offseason after serving well as the Nats closer.
Struggling No. 3 starters
Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin pitched like aces during the regular season, but they've been far from it during the playoffs. Greinke has allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings over three starts, while Corbin has allowed 11 earned runs in 13.1 innings over five appearances. The better performance of the two during Game 3 of the World Series could ultimately determine the Series winner.
Houston won more than 100 games for the third consecutive year and is trying to win its second World Series in three years. The core of the team is likely to remain intact beyond this season, but a second World Series victory could already solidify the team's status as a dynasty.
Nationals' bullpen depth
Washington had the worst bullpen in MLB during the regular season. While it has performed well during the playoffs, the Nats bullpen still has major depth issues that have forced them to use their top three starting pitchers in relief already. Washington could still be in trouble if its starters don't go deep into games during the World Series.
Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon both have a realistic shot to win the MVP in their respective leagues. The elite third basemen have both had career years and continue to play well in the playoffs and should have huge roles in the World Series.
Can anyone stop Jose Altuve?
Altuve had a great regular season, but he's saving his best for the playoffs. He hit a walk-off home run in Game 6 of the ALCS to send Houston to the World Series and is hitting .349-5-8 with a 1.184 OPS in 11 playoff games so far. If Altuve continues his hot hitting, Washington could be in trouble.
Yordan Alvarez's struggles
Alvarez is the likely AL Rookie of the Year after hitting .313-27-78 in only 87 games during the regular season, but his postseason slump has already been a storyline. The DH is just 7-for-41 with no home runs in 11 postseason games. He won't be as big of a factor in the World Series, with the Astros playing without the DH when they go to Washington, but they would still love to have Alvarez get back on track.
Ryan Zimmerman's long wait
Zimmerman was Washington's first draft choice in 2005 after it moved from Montreal, and he remains with the organization despite his recent years of injuries. The first baseman has performed well during the playoffs so far, and it would make for quite a story if he could bring a World Series crown home to Washington in his 15th season.
Astros No. 4 starter
Instead of using a fourth starter during the ALCS, Houston had a bullpen day en route to its Game 6 victory. Regular-season fourth starter Wade Miley didn't make the ALCS roster after struggling late in the year, but Jose Urquidy remains a possibility to fill in as the fourth starter for the Astros if they don't opt to use a bullpen day again.
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