Jared McMasters, assistant sports editor
Between third baseman Alex Bregman, starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and fellow ace Justin Verlander, the Houston Astros have three possible studs who each have a shot at ending the year as the best player of the 2019 season.
Sure, the Nationals have their own star position players in Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. And they even have some incredible talent on the mound with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. But the feats that this Astros rotation has been achieving are of historical proportions.
Cole’s mark of 13.82 strikeouts per nine innings this regular season was the highest of any pitcher that threw a minimum of one inning per team game played in a given year since 1876. Joining Cole on that all-time list is Verlander at No. 17 with a rate of 12.11.
The fireball that is Cole’s four-seam fastball has helped propel him to 326 strikeouts during the 2019 regular season. Five-time Cy Young Award winner and Hall of Famer Randy Johnson is the only other pitcher to fan more batters in a season in the last 20 years. The person with the second-most strikeouts this year? Verlander at 300.
If the Nationals somehow manage to steal a game with Cole on the mound, Verlander will be waiting in the ranks, ready to help the Astros win their second World Series in the last three seasons.
Prediction: Astros in six
Brian Keyes, assistant sports editor (DC Native)
The Washington Nationals, my hometown baseball team, is headed to the World Series. They stayed in the fight, they mimed baby sharks, and now 14 years of a seemingly cursed existence have come to this.
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Bryce Harper is gone (good riddance), Jayson Werth is gone (please come back) along with numerous other players who were as much a part of this moment as any current National.
The team we are left with is maybe one of the most fun baseball teams I have ever witnessed the few seasons I've paid attention to since the 2012 meltdown.
Juan Soto is more delightful to watch than Harper ever was. The rotating hydra of starting pitchers of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez could throw a no-hitter through seven innings at any point. Anthony Rendon is a power hitting veteran. Sean Doolittle will whip out a lightsaber to celebrate anything. Ryan Zimmerman leads an old guard like nobody else.
Realistically, this is it for my Nats. The team will probably lose Rendon, their best player this season, due to a billionaire owner clutching at a few remaining dollars, potential dynasty be damned.
So like any good idiot with a three stars two bars tattoo, I have to believe this is the year. Go Nats. #STAYINTHEFIGHT
Prediction: Nationals in six