RICHMOND- Goochland native Justin Verlander has reached the fall classic for the second time in the last three years, but this time he will face a familiar comrade.
Former Tigers pitcher and Verlander’s ex-teammate, Max Scherzer, will be pitching against the Astros ace in the World Series as the Washington Nationals make their fall classic debut for the first time in over eighty years.
The Nationals advanced to the World Series as a Wild Card after knocking off the Milwaukee Brewers, a stunning upset over the top team in the NLCS and World Series runner up, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a sweep over the St.Louis Cardinals.
The Astros, as the top team in the ALCS, took down the Tampa Bay Rays and then the heavily favored New York Yankees in six to reach the fall classic. The defending champion Boston Red Sox failed to qualify for the postseason.
Houston is looking for their second world championship in three years while the Nationals are looking for their first-ever World Series title.
On the matchup of Scherzer vs Verlander, former teammate Ian Kinsler told USA Today how both conduct themselves.
“Max will joke around with guys on the day he pitches, and you really don’t see him get serious until about an hour before game time. Justin won’t say a word to anyone except to his catcher.’’ Kinsler said.
Scherzer gets the start in Game 1 against Gerrit Cole and Verlander will take to the mound in Game 2 against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg.
“That competitiveness is probably the only similarity between them that makes them so good,’’ says Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Alex Avila, their former catcher in Detroit. “They strive for absolute perfection. And they’re so competitive that they not only want to beat you, but to embarrass you.’’
Both teams have vastly improved their pitching through managing the salary cap and both have traveled very different paths.
In fact, no one thought the Nationals would even reach this game following the departure of all-star Bryce Harper to the Philadelphia Phillies and a 19-31 record in May.
The Astros meanwhile, were seen as a dominant force who looked just as formidable as they did two years ago when they won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games.
When these two teams collide inside Minute Maid Stadium in Houston on Tuesday night for Game 1, it will be a classic form of David vs Goliath.
The first two games will take place in Houston before Games 3 and 4 will take place in Nationals Park. If necessary, Game 5 will be in Washington and then Games 6 and 7 will take place in Houston.
The key to this World Series will be pitching. With the Astros having larger names at-bat, the Nationals must be able to swing at precision and attack the Astros pitchers head-on. For Houston, it all comes down to patience and not being reckless as it nearly cost them against NY.
The city of Space vs The city of Politics. Who will blast off in the Fall Classic and sign their name as World Series Champions? Just take me out to the ball game.