Astros vs. Nationals MLB World Series: Three questions facing both teams heading into Game 2

The 2019 World Series continues Wednesday, with the Houston Astros hosting the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park for Game 2. The Nationals won Game 1 by a 5-4 final behind a strong performance from Juan Soto and a gutsy outing from Max Scherzer. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for Washington in Game 2. The Astros, for their part, are hoping for better pitching from Justin Verlander and for their lineup to cash in more of their scoring opportunities. 

Now, before we address three important questions for Game 2, here are your essentials:  

When: Wednesday, Oct. 23 | Time:  8:08 p.m. ET
Venue: Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas)
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)  
Odds: HOU: -180 | WAS: +160 | O/U: 7.5
Starting pitchers: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs. Justin Verlander (HOU)

1. Can Strasburg keep his red-hot postseason going?

Coming into Game 1, the only pitcher who could claim to be having a better postseason than Stephen Strasburg was Gerrit Cole. Cole had a relatively rough outing, permitting five runs in seven innings -- or four more runs than he'd yielded in his first 22-plus.

Strasburg will hope his luck is better in Game 2. He enters having appeared four times (and started thrice) while accumulating a 1.64 ERA and a 39.3 strikeout rate. Strasburg has struck out 33 batters and walked just one, giving him an absurd strikeout-to-walk rate.

The key to Strasburg's start may again be his signature changeup. When he's right, he's able to overpower batters with his fastball, steal strikes with his breaker, then unleash a circle-change that leaves them either out in front or swinging over the top for strike three.

2. Will Houston's lineup snap out of its funk?

For as good as Strasburg has been this fall (and really for his career), it's also worth watching whether or not the Astros as a team are snapping out of their rut.

Entering Game 1, the Astros had just three players with more than 10 plate appearances this postseason who had an on-base percentage over .330: Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley. Comparatively, they had six below .250. Again, that's on-base, not batting average.

That group includes Yuli Gurriel, George Springer and Yordan Alvarez -- a trio who combined to go 6 for 11 in Game 1, with four runs batted in and a walk.

Obviously those contributions weren't enough for the Astros to win -- they left a total of 25 runners on base (that includes double-counting some individuals). As such, Houston's offense needs both: others outside of Bregman, Altuve and Brantley to hit, and to make the most of the chances they get against Strasburg.

Should neither come to fruition, Houston could find itself in a world of trouble.

3. How safe is a 2-0 lead or how bad is a 2-0 deficit?

It probably goes without saying that every team engaged in a best-of-seven series wants to stake out a 2-0 lead and/or avoid a 2-0 deficit. Depending on how things break Wednesday, the Nationals and Astros may well find themselves in those situations. What would that mean for their chances of winning the World Series?

To answer the question, we consulted the empirical data gathered at the website WhoWins.com. Per the site, teams who have taken a 2-0 lead have won the series 84 percent of the time. That means, duh, that teams to go down 2-0 win about 16 percent of the time. To take it a step further, road teams -- like the Nationals -- who go up 2-0 have won 88.5 percent of seven-game series in MLB history. The reason for the discrepancy being, perhaps, the 2-3-2 format, which sees that team host the middle three games of the set.

After Wednesday's game, we'll know if the Nationals will require just two more wins to bring home the franchise's first championship.

So who wins Game 2 of Nationals vs. Astros? And which side of the money line has all the value? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the money line you should be all over Tuesday, all from the advanced model that has crushed its MLB picks, and find out.      

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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