The 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals (93-69) and Houston Astros (107-55) features seven premier starting pitchers all seeking to out-hurl each other in the Fall Classic. The Houston Astros are the World Series betting favorite at -220 odds to win the title, while the Washington Nationals are a big underdog at +180 to win the championship.

2019 World Series Preview Aces Houston Astros Washington Nationals
The 2019 World Series features several of the top starting pitchers in baseball (Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin). (Image: Wall Street Journal)

The Nationals come into the 2019 World Series as the biggest underdog in 12 years even though they boast four bona fide aces with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez. Strasburg is 3-0 in the postseason with a 1.64 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.

The Nationals square off against a trio of Aces in Houston with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. Cole has been unhittable in the postseason with a 3-0 record and 32 strikeouts, along with a 0.40 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.

Washington Nationals +180
Houston Astros -220

The Astros won the World Series in 2017 by defeating the LA Dodgers in seven games. The Boston Red Sox only needed five games to win the World Series last year against the LA Dodgers.

A majority of betting experts and prognosticators anticipated another Dodgers/Astros World Series. The suits running the TV networks were drooling at a potential Yankees/Dodgers World Series matchup between two massive media markets, but it ended up a loss for corporate America with Houston and Washington. These two teams don’t have any previous bad blood, but it’s never too late to fire up a new rivalry.

Paths to the World Series

The Nationals started out slow (19-31), and then went on an epic heater (74-38). Aside from losses against the Dodgers in the ALDS, the Nationals went 10-2 in the 2019 postseason.

The Nats won the NL wild card by picking off the Milwaukee Brewers, who were considered the other hottest team in the National League.

In the NLDS, the Nats knocked out the mighty LA Dodgers. The Dodgers had set a franchise record with 106 wins, and were on a specific mission to return to the World Series for a third straight season. The Nats had other plans thanks to extra-inning, grand-slam heroics from Howie Kendrick. The Nationals defeated the Dodgers in a thrilling NLDS Game 5.

The NLCS was a little uneventful after the Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, it’s almost a week later, and the Nats are well rested and awaiting ALCS MVP Jose Altuve and the Houston Aces.

The Astros were the best team in baseball with 107 wins, and have been the World Series betting favorite all season. They had a hiccup in the ALDS when the Tampa Bay Rays gave them a bit of a fight to extend the series to a full five games. The Astros prevailed and then met the NY Yankees in an inevitable showdown in the ALCS. The Replacement Yankees were banged up all season, but somewhat healthy for the postseason. The Astros shut down the Yanks and tamed their big bats to advance to win the ALCS in six games.

Only the Nationals stand in the Astros way of their second World Series title since 2017.

DC World Series History

The Nationals have never been in the World Series. Originally birthed as the Montreal Expos, the franchise got screwed during a baseball strike in 1994. Montreal fielded the best team in the National League that season, and seemed destined to meet the NY Yankees in the World Series. A strike killed the Expos only shot at a World Series berth.

Now, 25 years later, the ghosts of the Expos have a chance to finally live out their World Series dream through their relocated franchise in Washington, DC. Since becoming the Nationals, the Nats had never advanced to the World Series… until now.

You have to go back to 1933 for the last World Series game in Washington. The Senators were the biggest game in town back then, and they were knocked out by the New York Giants. The Senators won one title back in 1924 when they edged out the NY Giants in extra innings of Game 7 to win the championship.

It’s been 95 years since Washington, DC could lay claim to a World Series champion. Their hopes rest on four arms: Scherzer. Strasburg. Sanchez. Corbin.

Houston: Trip Aces

Who says starting pitching doesn’t win ball games in October?

A stacked Houston team, anchored by Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA, 0.90 WHIP) and Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP), added more firepower at the trade deadline by securing Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA). His arm will be needed in this old-fashioned showdown against Washington’s four aces.

With the Astros locking up the ALCS by Game 6, it allowed the team to reset perfectly for the World Series. The Nationals had the benefit of several days off. Their four aces and bullpen had plenty of time to rest up for one final push, especially old man Scherzer.

Scherzer (2-0, 1,80 ERA in playoffs) and Verlander (4-0, 3.70 ERA in playoffs) were old teammates with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers never made it over the hump with that tandem. Verlander finally won a title when he went to Texas and signed with the Astros. Scherzer is still seeking his first World Series ring. It seemed like it might never happen after the Nationals got stuck in a postseason rut –good enough to qualify for the postseason, but unable to advance and actually make a run.

Nationals: Quad Aces and Shaky Bullpen

Washington relies heavily on their aces because they must ride Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA), Max Scherzer (11-7, 2,92 ERA), Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA), and Anibal Sanchez (11-8, 3,85 ERA) for as many innings as they can.

Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole (Game 1)
Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander (Game 2)
Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin (Game 3)
Brad Peacock vs. Anibal Sanchez (Game 4)

The Nationals boast one of the worst bullpens in the majors (5.68 ERA), which has been source of indigestion for Dave Martinez. In the history of the World Series, no other team had a worst bullpen than the 2019 Nationals. However, the pen plugged their leaks since the Dodgers crushed the Nats pen for 14 runs at the start of the NLDS. The Nats got their proverbial crap together to rally back against the Dodgers. In the NLCS, the Nats pen looked sterling, allowing just one run in nine innings.

With an improved but still shaky pen, the Nationals will continue lean on their aces to go as deep as possible.

Outlook: Astros Favorites in Game 1

A couple of months ago, the Astros were the odds-on favorite to win the World Series, no matter who they faced. Everyone and their grandma were betting on the Astros in the World Series, especially Mattress Mack. The popular furniture store owner is going all-in by betting several million on the the Astros to win the World Series.

The Nationals got hot at the right time, and have been unbeatable the last couple of months of the season, including the postseason. The Nationals, and especially their bullpen, are coming into the World Series hot enough that they could go all the way to the Promised Land.

The Astros are still the team to beat, but so long as Dave Martinez doesn’t expose his bullpen for long stints, the Nationals have a shot in the World Series, even though they are almost 2/1 odds.

With Gerrit Cole on the mound in Houston, the Astros are -200 money line favorites coming into Game 1. The Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer are +180 money line dogs heading into the opening game of the World Series on Tuesday in Houston.