HOUSTON – The starting rotations for the World Series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are filled with former Cy Young winners and first-round draft picks.
Game 1 featured a pair of starting pitchers who were first-round draft picks – and so will Game 2. Two of the hurlers were No. 1 overall selections.
Gerrit Cole, a first-round pick both out of high school and then first overall out of college, lost for the first time in five months Tuesday night when the Astros dropped a 5-4 decision to Washington in Game 1. Three-time Cy Young winner and 2006 first-round pick Max Scherzer started and got the win for the Nationals.
Cole was picked 28th overall by the New York Yankees in 2008 but opted to go to UCLA and was selected first overall by Pittsburgh three years later. Scherzer was picked 11th overall by Arizona in 2006. He won the 2013 AL Cy Young before twice winning the NL award (2016-17).
Game 2 on Wednesday features 2011 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the second overall pick by Detroit in 2004 who is in his second World Series with Houston. Stephen Strasburg pitches for the Nationals, who took him first overall in the 2009 draft.
Another former Cy Young winner and first-round draft pick is scheduled to start for Houston in Game 3 in Washington on Friday night. Zack Greinke was the 2009 AL Cy Young winner for the Kansas City Royals, who drafted him in the first round in 2002.
This is the first World Series since 1945 to include six of the top 20 qualified pitchers in ERA for that season, according to Elias.
Some Nats firsts
Ryan Zimmerman, the first player ever drafted by the Nationals in 2005, hit the team’s first World Series home run in his first at-bat.
Zimmerman’s two-out solo homer in the second inning made him the third-oldest player to go deep in his first career World Series plate appearance, according to STATS. The only players older than Zimmerman (35 years and 24 days old) were Barry Bonds (38 years, 87 days in 2002) and Bob Watson (35 years, 193 days in 1981).
Nationals shortstop Trea Turner led off the game with a single, and then had their first stolen base this postseason after 116 during the regular season to match the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League lead.
In the bottom of the first, Scherzer allowed his first hit with runners in scoring position this postseason. Opposing teams had been 0 for 17 in those situations until Yuli Gurriel’s two-run double with two outs.
Taking Cole deep
When 20-year-old Juan Soto led off the Nationals fourth inning with a home run, it was the first time in 12 starts that Cole gave up multiple homers in a game.
Cole had surrendered only six home runs in his previous 11 starts, including just one in three postseason games, since the Rockies hit two off him on Aug. 7 – in Houston, not Colorado. Only six times in 36 starts before Tuesday night had the right-hander allowed more than one homer.
Soto’s homer also made the Nationals the first team with a homer by a player 35 or older and a player 20 or younger in the same World Series game, according to STATS.
The Nationals have won 17 of their last 19 games since late September, the best 19-game stretch since they began play in 2005.
Three days before his 21st birthday, Soto hit cleanup for Washington to become the second-youngest to bat fourth in a World Series game in the past 100 years. Miguel Cabrera was about six months younger when he hit cleanup for the Marlins in 2003.
Soto also became only the fourth player to homer in a World Series game when younger than 21. He later had a two-run double, making him the first player younger than 21 to have a homer and a double in the same game. Joe Garagiola in 1946 was the only other 20-year-old with at least three RBIs in a World Series game. Soto also had a stolen base, becoming the third player younger than 21 to do that.
George Springer hit a solo homer for Houston, extending his franchise record for postseason homers to 14. He also set an MLB mark by going deep in his fifth consecutive World Series game. He was the World Series MVP when the Astros won the championship two years ago. (Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig are the only others to homer in four consecutive World Series games).
Game 2 starters
Verlander is 0-4 with a 5.67 ERA in five World Series starts going into his Game 2 outing.
“You know that the nerves are going to be higher. Your body knows it’s not a regular start,” Verlander said Tuesday. “Going to sleep tonight is not going to be the same as normal. But having done it before, I don’t know if it helps, it’s definitely not going to calm you down any more, but I know what to expect going into it.”
Verlander, a 36-year-old right-hander, lost Games 1 and 5 to St. Louis in 2006, then dropped the 2012 opener to San Francisco, giving up a solo home run to Pablo Sandoval in the first and a two-run homer to Kung Fu Panda in a three-run third.
He wasted a 1-0 lead for Houston in Game 2 two years ago, giving up solo homers to the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and Corey Seager and leaving after six innings in a game the Astros won 7-6 in 11 innings. He wasted a lead in Game 6, allowing Chris Taylor’s tying double in the sixth followed by Seager’s sacrifice fly in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win.
“I think you know what to expect out of the nerves and the anxiousness, but it doesn’t make it go away,” Verlander said.
Strasburg, a 31-year-old right-hander, has pitched in seven postseason games since 2014 but will be making his World Series debut.
“You’re going to get the butterflies,” he said. “Done it enough times that the more you try and settle in, the more it gets. And I think it’s beneficial to just play wherever you’re at. You know it’s going to be a storm out there. You’re going to weather it.”
No repeat record
This will be the 19th season in a row that there will not be a repeat World Series champion.
That is the longest such streak of no-repeat champions among MLB, the NFL, NBA and NHL. The 18 seasons in a row for Major League Baseball before this year had matched the NBA from 1970-87 for the record streak.
The Boston Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs this season after winning the World Series last year. The New York Yankees were the last team to win consecutive World Series, when they won three in a row from 1998-2000.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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