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5 things to know about Nationals vs. Astros World Series

5 things to know about Nationals vs. Astros World Series

The Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in team history. Now, they meet a juggernaut of a Houston Astros team, who will host them in Game 1 at 8:08 p.m. on Tuesday night. Here are five things to know about the Astros in terms of how they match up with the Nats.

They're really good

There were an MLB-record four teams that won 100 or more games this season and the Astros were the best of all of them. They won 107 games in the regular season, the 13th-most by any team in MLB history. And they did so with the best run differential in the majors (+280). 

The Astros are a well-oiled machine with no obvious weakness. And not surprisingly, they have opened as heavy favorites. According to some sportsbooks, the Nats are the biggest underdogs in a World Series since the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

They can pitch, too

The Nationals' best strength is their starting pitching led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Those four have combined for the best rotation ERA in this year's MLB postseason (2.04) and have been the key ingredient to Washington making it this far.

Starting pitching would be an advantage for the Nats over just about every team in baseball, but it is debatable with the Astros. Their top three of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke is just as good and even more accomplished. So far in October, Verlander has been solid, Greinke has been inconsistent and Cole has been downright unhittable. Cole has a 0.40 ERA in 22 2/3 innings with 32 strikeouts. 

They hit dingers

Houston had the third-most homers in the American League this season, but that is a deceiving stat because their home run total (288) also ranks third-best all-time. They just happened to hit that many in a year the Twins set the MLB record (307) and the Yankees hit the second-most ever (306). So, basically no team had ever hit more homers than the Astros did this season before 2019.

For Houston, it is a collective effort. They had 10 players hit double-digit homers, seven hit 20 or more and four with 30-plus. Alex Bregman led the way with 41, George Springer hit 39 and both Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel had 31 apiece.

The Astros aren't just good at hitting homers, either. They were first in the majors this season in batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.352), slugging percentage (.495), OPS (.848) and walks (645).

They are proven winners

While the Nationals are in the World Series for the first time and enjoying the ride, the Astros have grown used to playing during this time of year. They won the World Series in 2017 and made it to the ALCS last year. 

Their rise was sudden, from 70 wins in 2014, to now making the postseason four out of the last five years. But unlike the Nats, who experienced years of playoff heartbreak before breaking through, the Astros found early and lasting success, as if they were uniquely built for the playoff stage. 

They don't have history

Due to these teams playing in different leagues, they don't have much of a sample size to draw from in terms of how they match up directly. They haven't seen each other in interleague play since 2017 and many of the individual players don't have history, either.

Bregman, for instance, has never faced Scherzer before. He has a combined seven at-bats against Strasburg and Corbin. Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Victor Robles have never faced Verlander. Soto, in fact, only has seven at-bats against Astros pitchers and Greinke is the only starter he's faced.

The only experience many of the players will be able to draw from is spring training where the Nats and Astros share a facility. Seeing an ace like Scherzer or Cole for the first time in a World Series game would not be ideal. It could be something to watch early in games, as hitters adjust to the arm angles of pitchers they have never faced before.

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Nationals visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with the World Series trophy

Nationals visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with the World Series trophy

Since Game 7 of the World Series, the Commissioner's Trophy has been through celebrations, a parade and now, it's making a visit to some special Nationals fans.

On Friday, the hardware visited the veterans and patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 

In an Instagram story posted to the official Nationals account, free agent Ryan Zimmerman posed for photos and signed autographs while everyone got a photo with the trophy. 

The Instagram story highlighted an adorable addition to the festivities, a service dog in a shark costume. Serving as an adorable reminder that the Baby Shark craze is far from over

Earlier this season, the Nationals made their annual visit to the facility and paid tribute all season long to servicemen and women rehabbing there during each home game. 

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Sean Doolittle congratulates Pedro Capó as Nationals anthem 'Calma' wins song of the year

Sean Doolittle congratulates Pedro Capó as Nationals anthem 'Calma' wins song of the year

The Nationals have quite the reputation of picking up silly celebrations and traditions. From “Baby Shark,” to home run dugout dancing, it’s all a part of what ultimately held the clubhouse together. 

The Nats even adopted Pedro Capó’s “Calma,” as their unofficial anthem. 

So, it wasn’t a surprise when Nationals closer Sean Doolittle went to Twitter to express his support after "Calma" won Song of the Year at 2019 Latin Grammys on Thursday night. 

“Calma” became a signature song for the team thanks to second baseman Brian Dozier who was clearly in love with the song. When the Nats clinched the playoff, a video of Dozier dancing in the locker room went viral. 

Capó even made an appearance prior to Game 5 of the World Series and spent time with Dozier and the team. It gets even better than that, Capó joined in with Dozier for a duet of his song and posted a "Let's go Nats" on his own Instagram story.

It's safe to say that both the Nationals and Capó have mutual support for one another and Doolittle's nice gesture on Twitter could have partly been in thanks for getting the team through the season. 

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