World Series Game 6, A Match-Up Of Epic Proportions
The Houston Astros were basically left for dead before the weekend as they dropped the first two games of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park to the Washington Nationals.
However, the Astros returned the favor to Washington throughout the weekend as they beat them soundly in all three games in the Nation's Capital to take a 3-2 series lead.
The biggest thing that needed to turn around that did for Houston was their production with runners in scoring position.
During games, one and two the Astros were a combined 3-17 (.176) with RISP and three home runs while the Nationals were 7-21 (.333) with RISP and five home runs.
The script completely changed with the venue. Houston was an astounding 11-28 (.393) with RISP and six home runs while Washington went an ice-cold 1-22 (.045) with RISP and just one home run.
In addition, much like the Nats got contributions from veteran guys like Kurt Suzuki and Asdrubal Cabrera over the first two games the Stros began to get those similar contributions as well. For example, catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Jake Marisnick came to life to prove some spark out of the bottom of the lineup. Also, they got an exceptional pitching performance from Jose Urquidy who got the start out of the bullpen for a pivotal game four.
All of these things will need to continue as the venue switches back to Houston for game six on Tuesday. Perhaps the biggest thing that needs to change when the Astros return home is the fortune of Justin Verlander in the postseason.
In case you haven't heard, Verlander is the only pitcher to go 0-5 in World Series games in MLB history. He also hasn't faired well in opportunities to close games out this postseason as he's lost in the AL Division and Championship Series with the chance to advance.
All of that can be forgotten with a strong outing that brings Houston its second championship in three years, as they say, third time is a charm, hopefully for JV.
Standing in his way, however, will be an obstacle he faced in game two of this World Series in Stephen Strasburg. Both guys battled through six innings, while Strasburg's night ended after six Verlander pushed onto the seventh and failed to record an out as he was taxed with two additional runs.
Strasburg has been absolutely phenomenal in his opportunities in the playoffs and National fans shouldn't want anybody else with the ball in their hand with their backs up against the wall. He's won four games already during Washington's run through the World Series and altogether he's 5-2 with a sparkling 1.34 ERA in 47 innings pitched in his playoff career.
Here's an outstanding graphic from David Adler of MLB.com showing how the top pitchers in this World Series go about getting opposing hitters out. I want you to focus in on our match-up for game six between Verlander and Strasburg.
Notice how with Verlander he mainly utilizes his 4-seam fastball up in the zone and his slider down and away from right-handers and down and into left-handers to induce strikeouts.
As for Stras he's very systematic how he punches opposing batters out. I know it's a moving GIF that you can't pause but if you focus on when they show his strikeout zone I want you to look at the three main pitches he throws and the specific spots he uses those pitches to strike batters out.
The first two pitches are his off-speed pitches, a changeup, and a curveball, that he exclusively works the bottom of the zone with. He's able to bury those pitches towards the bottom of the zone where batters have either a hard time laying off because when the ball leaves his hand they look so good or they're just fooled and can't pull the trigger.
Now, pay attention to his 4-seam fastball. When he's ahead in the count he likes to try and elevate his fastball that routinely sits in the high 90's which is equally hard to catch up to as well as lay off. That's what makes it such a deadly weapon if he can consistently hit that spot.
This should be a really fun match-up between two of the games best pitchers. Will Verlander be able to get off the playoff snide and will Strasburg be able to continue his postseason dominance? We'll find out on Tuesday.