The 2019 World Series kicks off in Houston tonight as the Astros and Washington Nationals battle it out. Ben Steele previews the series and picks out his best bets.
"Altuve has been the standout player this October, batting .349, with a .417 OBP, he has hit five home runs, including his series clincher on Saturday."
Altuve chasing missing MVP
In 2017 Jose Altuve won the American League regular season MVP award, on Saturday night he hit a walk-off home run to send the Houston Astros to the World Series and won himself an ALCS MVP award in the process. His career is missing one thing, a World Series MVP, and as the Astros leader starts his quest for the trophy he's in the form of his life.
Altuve has been the standout player this October, batting .349, with a .417 OBP, he has hit five home runs, including his series clincher on Saturday. While previous performances don't factor in to World Series MVP voting, the focus on the Venezuelan will certainly help his chances. With the Astros favourites, and the games set to be close, back Altuve at 17/2 to continue his sensational postseason and head home with the MVP trophy.
Pitching battle will be the focus
The Houston Astros have a vaunted pitching rotation that features the AL Cy Young front runners, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, but they look to have met their match in the form of the Washington Nationals. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin taking to the mound for Washington, the Nats are outstanding.
In their 10 game run to the World Series, Nats pitchers' have held opposing hitters to a batting average of just .186 and have twice flirted with no-hitters. Don't expect an offensive explosion in this series, it will be tight and defensive across the board. It is incredibly tight, but I think Washington have the edge in the pitching battle, so I think we'll see this series go the distance.
Cole will lead Houston to winning start
Gerrit Cole will start Game 1 for Houston as the Astros aim to get off to a fast start. Knowing the depth of Washington's pitching staff, Cole will be aiming to continue the fine form that has seen him post a 0.40 ERA in his three playoff starts and hand Max Scherzer his first playoff loss of 2019.
Scherzer will have to cope with Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman, while Cole will take on Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. I think the game will be close but Houston's playoff experience just gives them the edge.