With the Nationals facing off against the Astros for the 2019 World Series crown, it is matchup that features the two best starting staffs in baseball.
And don’t forget about Aníbal Sánchez. The Nats have the staff to keep them in games, the major key to their run in these playoffs.
“Obviously, a dream staff,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki. “Three guys that strike out over 200 guys in a season. You got veteran guys that have been there before. Scherzer and Strasburg anchoring the rotation, it’s pretty special. You got, arguably, two of the best pitchers in baseball anchoring your rotation, pitching every five days. It’s pretty neat.”
The Astros counter with an equally impressive staff. Cole has won 20 games and has a 2.50 ERA, Verlander was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and Greinke went 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA. Stunning numbers.
“You’re going to see two teams that have big reliance on starting pitching,” Suzuki said. “They got Cole, Verlander, Greinke. Their top three. It’s nice, kind of the old school way now of having starting pitchers go deep into the games to get to the back end, not just relying on your bullpen to see teams like that do well.”
Starters going seven innings or even into the eighth was so important for the Nats against the Cardinals. Is that the only way the Nats can beat Houston, calming down their lethal offense but staying with the starters for as long as they can? It is a trend that Suzuki believes can lead the Nats to their first title.
“It’s better for the game, the traditional way of going out and having good starting pitching is how you win,” Suzuki said. “Obviously, not to say the bullpen can’t work. Obviously, it can work. At what point does your bullpen get worn down?
“I’m not saying any way is better, but for me, being a catcher, being able to guide the starting pitcher through and have that opportunity to do that and be more traditional is what I grew up playing and coming up through the minor leagues into the big leagues (for) so many years. I kind of like it that way because you get to build that rapport with a pitching staff.”
Nationals manager Davey Martinez knows that, for his club to control the tempo of this series, his Big Four will have to deliver again.
“It’s really nice,” Martinez said. “I’ve said this all year: Our starting pitching was the key. They kept us in every ballgame this year. And they’ve done it all playoffs. So it’s nice to go out there with a Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Sánchez, Corbin. These guys are a big reason why we’re here.”
It is the major theme of this series, especially for the Nats. The Cardinals never were able to get major rallies going because of the Nats starters. The Nats even used those starters in the bullpen against the Dodgers. If the Nats starters can build up innings and shorten games early on in this series against the Astros, they will have a shot to give their offense more opportunities to score against Houston.
But Martinez also wants to be careful with his Big Four and make sure that if the series goes the full seven games his pitchers will have enough left to get through them all.
“For me, it’s making sure these guys are ready and healthy,” the skipper said. “These guys have pitched a lot. And I want to make sure it’s not just about Game 1. It’s about Games 4, 5, 6, 7. We’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves for seven games and that we do our due diligence on each one.”