The Washington Nationals survived a shaky start from ace Max Scherzer in Tuesday’s Game 1 of the 2019 World Series to open with an upset 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros. Astros SP Gerrit Cole was dealt his first loss since May 22. Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman and OF Juan Soto each homered in the win, with the young outfielder driving in a total of three runs. The Astros were able to close the gap late against the Nationals’ mercurial bullpen, but Sean Doolittle came in to close the door and preserve Scherzer’s victory with a four-out save. Below, we make our Astros vs. Nationals Game 2 picks for the moneyline, spread (run line) and over/under.
As expected for the duration of the series, Game 2 will feature another elite pitching matchup. The Nationals hand the ball over to RHP Stephen Strasburg with RHP Justin Verlander trying to pull the Astros back even. Be sure to check out TheLines for Nate Weitzer’s full breakdown of the pitching matchup and notes for both teams.
Astros vs. Nationals moneyline
The Astros took their second loss at Minute Maid Park of the postseason. They lost the opener of the American League Championship Series 7-0 against the New York Yankees before winning four of the next five in the series. The wild-card Nationals improved to 5-1 as the road team in their surprising playoff run. Tuesday’s victory was their seventh straight, dating back to Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cole was able to complete seven innings despite giving up five earned runs in the uncharacteristic loss. It allowed the Astros to preserve their bullpen with just two relievers being used. The Nationals replaced Scherzer for the top of the sixth inning and used four relievers, including projected Game 3 starter LHP Patrick Corbin. Corbin gave up one hit but struck out two batters in a scoreless inning of work. He was credited with the win following Houston’s failed comeback attempt. The Astros weren’t without their chances on offense. Houston left 11 runners on base and batted just 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals left four runners on but were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Strasburg has been the Nationals’ best starter this postseason. He is 3-0 with at least six innings pitched in each of his three starts. He has given up a total of just four earned runs over 22 innings. Verlander has taken two rare losses in four playoff appearances. He has allowed a total of 10 earned runs over 24 1/3 innings. He was at his best at home this season, pitching to a 2.34 ERA vs. a 2.82 rate on the road. The team which gets the most innings out of its starter will win Game 2. Give me Verlander.
The Pick: Astros -182 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Astros vs. Nationals run line
The Nationals’ bullpen was, expectedly, their weakest link in Game 1. The likelihood of late-inning runs (for both teams) this series creates volatility around the run lines. Strong outings from the starters can be quickly erased in the final three innings, as we nearly saw from Washington Tuesday night.
Strasburg’s three starts this postseason each ended with Washington winning by at least a two-run margin. Tuesday’s victory was the first in the Nationals’ seven-game win streak to be decided by only a single run. In addition to the 12 games which Verlander started and the Astros lost this season (including playoffs) six victories were decided by a lone run. Four of Strasburg’s 18 credited victories were by single-run margins.
Verlander improved his second time through a batting order, dropping his ERA to 1.92 from 2.71 on the first turn through. Strasburg pitched to a 2.93 ERA his first time through the order but a 3.57 ERA on the second turn. The Astros will be able to get some late runs on Wednesday. They’ll just need to get some early, as well.
Astros vs. Nationals over/under
Game 1 flew past the projected total of 6.5 combined runs with seven of the nine coming against the starters. The Nationals improved to 5-5 against the over/under across their last 10 games with the Astros going 4-5-1 against the number.
The under has been a theme for Verlander. It is 21-5 in his last 26 starts with four days of rest, 7-1 in his last eight Wednesday starts and 14-5-1 in his last 20 home starts. The under is also 7-0 in the last seven games with umpire Sam Holbrook behind home plate. The projected total has risen to 7.5 total runs following Tuesday’s nine-run “outburst.” Avoid the recency bias as Strasburg and Verlander battle to a lower score.
World Series Game 2 best bet
Total Runs – First 5 Innings: UNDER 3.5 (+120 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
Eliminate the risk of the bullpens and bet on a true pitchers’ duel. Tuesday’s starters allowed a total of seven runs by the end of the fifth inning, but Strasburg has allowed just three earned runs in the first five innings of his three starts. Each of Verlander’s 10 runs allowed this postseason came within the first five innings of his starts but that’s still an average of just 2.5 per game.