The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 5-4 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series. The Nationals now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 2 on Wednesday, which will also take place at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg are the probable pitchers.
But before that happens, let's recap what happened in Game 1.
Why the Nationals won
Typically, a victory in a game started by Max Scherzer can be credited foremost to Scherzer. Not Game 1. Rather, the Nationals owe their victory more to Juan Soto, the 20-year-old phenom who recorded three hits and drove in three of Washington's five runs. Ryan Zimmerman also pitched in by opening the Nationals' scoring with a solo home run of his own. As for Scherzer, he gutted out five innings and seven strikeouts, permitting two runs on five hits and three walks. Davey Martinez then turned to a combination of Patrick Corbin, Tanner Rainey, Daniel Hudson, and Sean Doolittle to close down the Astros' operations. It wasn't the prettiest effort at times, but it proved to be effective in the end.
Why the Astros lost
Two big reasons: 1) Cole wasn't as dominant as he had been in his first three postseason starts, and 2) Houston failed to cash in its opportunities. Cole had allowed just one run in his first 22 postseason innings. On Tuesday, he gave up two home runs (and five runs) in seven innings. Meanwhile, the Astros lineup did him few favors, stranding runners left and right. As a team, the Astros were credited (or debited, depending on the perspective) with leaving 25 runners left on base. (That, of course, double-counts many individual runners.) The Nationals, conversely, stranded just 12 runners, albeit while reaching base five fewer times.
Obviously it involves Soto. We're going with his two-run double in the fifth that extended the Nationals' lead to 5-2. Those extra runs came in handy, and the play itself was worth .190 Win Probability Added. No other play on the night topped .170, which shows how important that play was -- both objectively and subjectively -- for the Nationals. Washington was also likely thrilled when Daniel Hudson checked in and worked out of a mess created by Tanner Rainey, who had walked two and permitted a home run while recording just one out in what was at that point a 5-3 game.
Highlight of the Game
It has to be Soto, who won't celebrate his 21st birthday for a few more days. Take a look at this opposite-field homer and do note where it lands -- there aren't many other left-handed hitters who could deposit the ball there against Cole:
The Nationals and Astros will play Game 2 on Wednesday night. It's an 8:08 p.m. start and the pitching matchup looks to be a great one: Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals will look to extend their series lead to 2-0 before the series moves to D.C.