Saturday, November 02, 2019

Astros fall to Nationals in 2019 World Series

For the first time in the 115-year history of the World Series (and for that matter, any seven-game NHL Stanley Cup or NBA Finals series), the road team won every game. Unfortunately for the Astros, the last game happened to be in Houston.

I guess I shouldn't be too upset. This is only the third time the Astros have even been to the World Series in their 58-season history. And the Washington Nationals were certainly no slouch: they had the league's best overall record since late May and blazed through the postseason, upsetting the favored Dodgers and sweeping the Cardinals.

But still... The Astros won a league-best 107 games, had a 60-21 record at home, were being compared favorably to the 1927 Yankees, and were favored to win this year's Fall Classic. The 2019 World Series was theirs to lose. And lose it they did.

Manager CJ Hinch will forever be questioned for his decision to replace Zack Greinke with Will Harris in the seventh inning of Game Seven, a decision that changed the course of the game. But that decision aside, the reason the Astros couldn't clinch their second championship is easy to pinpoint: they simply could not manufacture runs.

In their three wins, the Astros stranded 24 runners on base and were 11 of 28 with runners in scoring poisition. In their four losses, they left 36 men on base and where an abysmal 4-19 RISP. They simply couldn't bring runners home. Jose Altuve, for all of his postseason heroics, had exactly one (!) RBI the entire World Series.

This isn't to completely excuse the pitching - the bullpen's meltdowns in Games Two and Seven were inexcusable, and when the time comes for Justin Verlander to be considered for the Hall of Fame, the fact that he is 0-6 in World Series games with a cumulative ERA of 5.68 will need to be taken into account. But if the Astros lineup, whose bats went through cold spells throughout the entire postseason, could get a few more of those aforementioned stranded runners home during the course of the series, the pitchers would have had more room for error.

All in all, the better team won. I'm just sorry it wasn't the Astros.

ESPN's Brad Doolittle describes the Astros as a team that fell just short of true greatness, while Sportsmap's Fred Faour notes that this loss should remind local fans why the 2017 championship was so special. Paper City's Chris Baldwin describes the scene in the locker room after "the most talented team in Houston Astros history" failed to win a championship.

Houstonia's Timothy Malcolm shares his thoughts, as does the Houston Press's Jeff Balke. The Chronicle ranks this game 4th on their list of most heartbreaking Houston sports defeats; I will have to decide where it falls on my list of top Houston sports chokejobs*.

*Given that gave the Astros a 81% of winning the World Series after Game 5, the 'Stros had two chances - both at home - to win one game, and had a 2-0 lead with eight outs remaining in Game 7: yes, I think this qualifies as a chokejob.

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