Jose Altuve is shorter than my 11-year-old daughter, yet he is without question one of the best hitters of his generation and he again showed why on Saturday night when he turned on a hanging slider from Aroldis Chapman and sent a frozen rope tearing through the night sky, clearing the wall just above the Fuddrucker’s sign in left-center field and sending the Astros to their second World Series in three years.
Altuve’s home run has delivered unto us a dream matchup for the Fall Classic. Are we really about to be treated to a World Series with five, possibly six, games featuring some combination of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin? Because man alive, that sounds awesome. Those six pitchers combined this year for a record of 102-36, with a 2.91 ERA, 1545 strikeouts over 1,227 1/3 innings and 38.1 bWAR. We may be heading for the lowest-scoring Series in decades. Which of course means we’re gonna get an old-fashioned shootout.
Lots of people have been tying themselves in knots to explain to just how incredible this Astros lineup is, but no one captured their greatness more succinctly than the MLB Random Stats Twitter feed, which noted that the Astros top seven hitters this season put up a slash line of .299/.378/.565, besting the .287/.377/.561 Mike Trout posted during his 2014 MVP campaign. That is bonkers.
While the Astros are deservedly the clear-cut favorite, it’s possible people maybe don’t realize just how good the Nationals are. After struggling out of the gate, going just 19-31 to start the season as they fell 10 games out in the NL East race, the Nats went 74-38 over the last two-thirds of the season, same as the Houston Astros — these guys are really good.
In addition to perennial All Star third baseman, Anthony Rendon, the Nats’ lineup features one of the games most joyfully arrogant young sluggers in Juan Soto. A man brimming with so much swagger he makes Yasiel Puig seem demure by comparison. Soto has already hit 57 homers with a .937 OPS and 7.6 bWAR and he won’t yet be eligible to have his first beer until Friday, October 25.
For you Kleenex-clutching sentimentalists out there, the man to root for is Ryan Zimmerman, who has been with the club since their first year in DC in 2005. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits, doubles, homers and RBIs, and is now heading to his first World Series.
Again, the ‘Stros are the favorites, but Verlander has had a couple of shaky starts this postseason, as has Greinke — not so shaky that they weren’t able to dispense with a very talented Yankee team — but they still have that fearsome lineup and the bullpen is pretty damn good, as well. The Nats are gonna need four top-shelf performances from their starters if they’re gonna to take home the title, which is hardly outside the realm of possibility, but it’s a pretty big lift. Astros in 5.