HOUSTON -- The apex of baseball is coming to Houston on Wednesday night. The Houston Astros will host the Washington Nationals for Game 7 of the World Series. Game 7 is an amazing thing. It's the most dramatic game possible and we've been blessed to get the World Series winner-take-all game three times in the last four years. Hopefully this one is as dramatic as 2016.
There is no tomorrow in Game 7, so teams can use their pitching staffs without worrying about what comes next. With that in mind, let's take a look at Game 7 pitching plans for both the Nationals and the Astros.
We know that Max Scherzer is starting. He said he was good to go after throwing on the field Tuesday and I can attest that he looked like himself while throwing. Pretty remarkable when you consider he needed help getting dressed the day of Game 5 due to back and neck spasms.
What we don't know is how effective Scherzer will be or how long he'll be able to go. He's a gamer, but he's dealing with a unique injury, so there are a number of possible outcomes.
If Scherzer is effective and can get through five, my hunch is they'll next go to Patrick Corbin and look for at least one inning, maybe two, before handing things over to Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle. If Scherzer can only get through two or three innings, they'll have to see how deep Corbin can get them after that. The hunch is Martinez would like to avoid all non-Doolittle/Hudson relievers.
If Scherzer gets through seven -- first off, that would be amazing -- there's a chance it's just straight to Doolittle to see if he can finish it off. In all likelihood, Martinez only wants to use Scherzer, Corbin, Hudson and/or Doolittle.
It is Game 7 and all bets are off. There's an X-factor here, and he just went 8 1/3 innings. Yes, there's a chance Stephen Strasburg is available. He hinted at it in a post-game interview with MLB Network. He's got all winter to recover. Remember Randy Johnson pitched in 2001 for Game 7 on zero days' rest.
Here's a guess about how the framework could work, by innings, in a good but not ideal situation for the Nats:
- Scherzer: 5 innings
- Corbin: 1
- Hudson: 1
- Strasburg: 1
- Doolittle: 1
Unless Scherzer and Corbin combine for a lot more innings, extra innings wouldn't bode well for the Nationals' chances. They'd have to dip into the soft underbelly of the bullpen or Anibal Sanchez.
Gerrit Cole's will be available (in a limited capacity, AJ Hinch said) if the Astros need him on Wednesday night. Cole is a horse like Strasburg. He'll be able to work some on two days' rest after throwing 110 pitches in Game 5.
The starter is Zack Greinke and he hasn't been great in the playoffs. He shouldn't see the Nationals the third time through the order -- look what they did to Verlander -- even if it appears he's dealing in a close game. That means I'm maxing out Greinke at four innings.
That's where Cole comes in. I believe Cole would piggyback Greinke in this situation and go as long as he's effective and says he's fine to keep going. Verlander is unavailable in Game 7, according to Hinch.
Will Harris will play the "put out the fire" guy. Roberto Osuna is closer and could be available for two innings. The next three guys would be Brad Peacock, Joe Smith and Ryan Pressly, but my guess is Hinch would like to get through the game with just Greinke, Cole, Harris and Osuna. If it goes extras, Jose Urquidy would be an option that could get length. He would be on short rest from Game 4, but he's a young, strong pitcher and it's Game 7. He'd be up to the task.
Here's a guess about how the framework could work, by innings, in a good but not ideal situation for the Astros:
- Greinke: 4
- Cole 2 1/3
- Harris 1 2/3
- Osuna: 1
- Urquidy, Peacock, Pressly, Smith: Extra innings
There you have it. As noted, the teams aren't really going to lay out their specific plan, but I've been watching these teams closely on a daily basis for a while and this is how I expect things to unfold, dependent upon production of course.