The 2019 World Series is underway and the Washington Nationals opened things up with a surprising 5-4 win over the Houston Astros.
Everyone expected this game to be dominated by Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole. Instead, the two aces allowed seven total runs and each allowed eight base runners in the first five innings.
Both teams brought the firepower thanks to MVP-caliber performances by star outfielders. While the Astros rallied for a late surge, the Nationals did just enough to hold on and steal the World Series opener in Houston.
Here are the winners and losers from Washington’s win over Houston in Game 1 of the World series.
Winner: Juan Soto
A 20-year-old emerged as the early favorite for World Series MVP on Tuesday night. Yes, the same age as his baseball peers who are still in college or were perhaps advanced enough to already be in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, Soto destroyed MLB’s best pitcher on the biggest stage.
Washington needed Soto to elevate his game to another level to win the World Series. He already proved he can accomplish that in Game 1 with a performance baseball fans won’t forget. The Nationals have already stolen a game from Houston and that could just be the start if MLB’s newest superstar keeps this up.
Loser: Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson
Washington’s bullpen entered October as a concern. While Sean Doolittle saved the game, there are still lingering concerns for the group behind him. Manager Dave Martinez used starter Patrick Corbin for an inning and that luxury won’t exist in many other games. That’s problematic given how Rainey and Hudson performed.
Rainey got thrown in against the top of Houston’s lineup and quickly got exposed with a home run and two walks allowed. While Hudson limited the damage and escaped the seventh, he came just a few feet away from blowing the game in the eighth. Given the weakness of this bullpen, Martinez needs his starters to go much longer into games and he must pick better spots for his shaky relievers.
Winner: George Springer
Introduce yourself to the new Mr. October. While Springer’s bat cooled down a bit early this postseason, he arrived for the World Series and earned the nickname with his record-setting blast.
Springer became the first player in MLB history to hit a home run in five consecutive World Series games. He went 11-for-29 in the ’17 World Series with a 1.471 OPS and delivered a championship. If Tuesday’s monster performance is any indicator, we’ll see similar numbers this year.
Loser: Alex Bregman
The concern is creeping in. While Bregman is drawing plenty of walks, including in the eighth inning of Game 1, he’s not coming through with hits in big spots. He struck out three times on Tuesday, twice with runners on base, and has one RBI since the ALDS ended. Houston desperately needs its best hitter to heat up quickly or its season will end because of his cold streak.
Winner: Max Scherzer
Things didn’t look promising early. Scherzer allowed two runs in the first and couldn’t find his command for most of the night. Yet, he found a way to battle without his best stuff and it worked. He kept the game at a one-run deficit until Washington made tied it in the fourth. Scherzer responded with a shutdown inning and delivered a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth after his lineup gave him a 5-2 lead. It’s not an MVP-caliber performance by any means, but these are the starts that help win a World Series.
Loser: Gerrit Cole
No one saw this coming. The Nationals were coming off a six-day break and facing a pitcher who hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in two months. Cole was shaky throughout, but everything unraveled in the fifth inning. Washington’s lineup didn’t have any issue with his electric fastball-slider combo and it cost him. Of course, no player did greater damage to his line than Soto.
After shutting down opposing hitters for months, the Nationals became the first team since May 23 to put five earned runs on Cole. While he’ll certainly rebound from this start, it doesn’t make this start any less shocking.