Home-field advantage? The 2019 World Series is tied up at two games apiece through the first four with the away team undefeated thus far. In what’s now a best of three, we make our Nationals-Astros Game 5 picks for the moneyline, spread (run line) and over/under at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. Both teams turn back to their Game 1 starters and No. 1 aces with Astros RHP Gerrit Cole looking for revenge against Nationals RHP Max Scherzer.
Cole will be looking to follow suit of RHP Jose Urquidy, who is coming off the most dominant pitching performance of the World Series for either side. Urquidy pitched five scoreless innings of one-run ball Saturday in an 8-1 Astros victory. 3B Alex Bregman sealed the game for Houston with a grand slam in the top of the seventh. Sunday’s game will get underway at 8:07 p.m. ET. It will be the Nationals’ final home game of the year at Nationals Park, as the series will shift back to Minute Maid Park in Houston for Games 6 and 7.
Be sure to check out TheLines for a full breakdown of Sunday’s pitching matchup and notes on both teams.
Nationals vs. Astros moneyline
Cole looks for a better result than his Game 1 performance in which he was dealt his first loss since May. MLB’s regular-season strikeouts leader gave up five earned runs (two home runs) over seven innings with six K’s and one walk in the series opener. Scherzer tossed five frames of two-run ball in the upset road victory for Washington. Cole and Scherzer ranked third and eighth, respectively by ERA in the regular season with rates of 2.50 and 2.92. They ranked 1-2 among qualified starters with strikeout rates of 13.82 and 12.69 batters per nine innings.
The two rank eighth and 11th, respectively, among 33 pitchers to start at least one game this postseason with ERAs of 1.82 and 2.25 while making four starts each (Scherzer added a scoreless relief inning in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers). Cole had previously given up just one run through 22 2/3 playoff innings this year. The 29-year-old was best on the road this season with a 2.36 ERA vs. a 2.63 rate at home. Scherzer, oddly, was worse at home this season with a 3.16 ERA compared to his 2.64 rate on the road.
While I’m not one for the intangibles and superstitions of baseball, the World Series is now firmly back in the control of the Astros. The Nationals had their chance when returning home with a 2-0 series lead. It’s now time for Cole to redeem himself following a Cy Young-quality season and set up the clinching game in Houston.
The Pick: Astros -152 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Nationals vs. Astros run line
While moving to 2-2 in the series, the Astros have also improved to 2-2 against the spread. They closed as the favorites in each of the last two games and won both by at least three runs to cover the -1.5 run line. The lopsided final scores of the last three games – Games 2 and 4 especially – bucked the expectation of a tight, low-scoring series based on elite pitching. Of course, few predicted Urquidy to have the best outing in a series centered around Cole, Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.
The Astros have woken up following a slow start to the series. Their eight runs in Game 4 were the most they’ve scored in a game since Game 4 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Nationals have scored just one run in back-to-back games for the first time all postseason. With both sides heading in opposite directions with the shift in momentum in the series, ride with the Astros in a third straight victory as they prepare to head back home.
The Pick: Astros -1.5 (+120 DraftKings Sportsbook)
Nationals vs. Astros over/under
The projected total for Game 5 has dropped back to 7 combined runs with the two aces on the hill. Game 1’s final score of 5-4 in favor of the underdog Nationals easily topped the projection of 6.5.
Cole allowed just a single run in his second appearance of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Scherzer pitched twice in the NLDS against the Dodgers, tossing seven innings with only a solo home run allowed following his relief outing. Neither starter loses their advantage in the second pass through a team. Look for both to correct themselves after the unexpected starts to the series and bet on the low-scoring pitching battle for which we’ve all been waiting.
The Pick: UNDER 7 (-115 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
World Series Game 5 best bet
To Hit a Home Run: Robinson Chirinos (+430 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
The veteran Astros catcher quietly is tied for third with three postseason home runs on just six hits. He homered in each of the last two games while going 4-for-9 overall. Chirinos totaled 35 homers over 227 games played in the last two regular seasons and he has a career slugging percentage of .439. He’s emerging as a darkhorse candidate for World Series MVP as a key piece of the Astros’ turnaround. Another homer on the road to put his team on top could secure that title.