The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros by a 6-2 score on Thursday in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. The Nationals, as a result, will spend the winter celebrating the franchise's first world title. In the opposing clubhouse, the Astros' loss will give way to a winter of wondering "what if?" concerning the unrealized potential of winning a second championship in three tries.
One scenario the Astros will ponder is what would have happened if manager A.J. Hinch had inserted Gerrit Cole during the seventh inning instead of Will Harris. Cole, who had warmed throughout the night, ended up going unused in Game 7. The Astros' bullpen, meanwhile, permitted four runs -- with Harris giving up the go-ahead blast to Howie Kendrick.
After the game, Hinch explained his thinking by saying, "I wasn't going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead. He was going to help us win. He was available, and I felt it was a game that he was going to come in had we tied it or taken the lead. He was going to close the game in the ninth after I brought Osuna in had we kept the lead."
An impending free agent, Cole seemed to have reached the same conclusion most others have about his future in Houston -- namely, that there isn't one. After Game 7, Cole quipped that he isn't a member of the team and that he's "technically" unemployed. He added that "it was a pleasure to play in Houston" with the past tense doing a lot of heavy lifting.
Even if Cole was joking, he is likely to be playing elsewhere come 2020. Astros owner Jim Crane-- a wish that, if fulfilled, could lead Houston to trading a member of its core.
Obviously plans can change. Perhaps the sting of losing the World Series will persuade Crane to pony up and pay the overage fee. At this point, however, it feels fair to write that his Astros career may have ended in the worst possible way -- with him serving as the great unknown in a Game 7 defeat.
Don't feel too bad for Cole. If this is the end, he disembarks from the Astros after a two-season run that saw him throw 412 innings in 65 starts while accumulating a 2.68 ERA (164 ERA+) and a 5.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's also about to be very, very rich.