What’s on tap
8:08 p.m. ET: Nationals at Astros, Game 1
The view from inside the ballpark
HOUSTON — Other than the additional media setting up shop at Minute Maid Park, it would have been hard to distinguish Monday’s pre-World Series workouts from regular-season batting practice sessions.
The Astros seemed particularly loose, but also very focused, during their round of BP, with George Springer and Jose Altuve alternating between laughing and dancing near the cage and stopping for quick conversations with younger players who are going through the process for the first time, such as Yordan Alvarez. It will be intriguing to see if having so many guys who were part of the 2017 championship run will give the Astros any edge over a Nats team with just six players who previously have appeared in a World Series. — Dan Mullen
A stat to impress your friends: The Nationals’ starters have struck out 36.1% of batters faced this postseason, the highest percentage ever through the league championship series; the Astros are right behind them on the all-time list at 31.6%.
1. How much will the Nats’ rust and the hangover from the Astros’ weekend elation play a factor in Game 1?
Don’t buy into this storyline for the Nationals. To a man during the Nationals’ media session Monday they said the days off aren’t an issue. “We’ve been doing this for seven, eight months,” starter Patrick Corbin said. “There won’t be any rust.” As for an American League Championship Series hangover, Alex Bregman did admit to not getting any sleep Saturday night. He said he got some on Sunday — at least until his fantasy football alerts would wake him up. So if the Astros lose and Bregman struggles, blame fantasy football. — David Schoenfield
Zero. The numbers show that the whole too-many-days-off issue is more myth than reality, and Max Scherzer getting a few extra days off to rest his arm is much more important than any idea of the Nats cooling off with six days between games. As for the Astros and an ALCS hangover? Game 1 of the World Series in front of your home crowd should be a pretty good cure. — Mullen
2. What’s the best fan outfit/sign/prop/etc. you’ve seen so far in Houston?
Obviously, it has to be Polish Pete and his ode to Jose Altuve. Wait, is ode the right word? Maybe not. As a friend of mine who lives in Texas said, “We love a good polka in Texas.” So, yes, the Nationals have Gerardo Parra and his “Baby Shark” walk-up music that gets the stadium going, but the prediction here is that the Altuve Polka will soon be heard in bars all around Houston. — Schoenfield
The most excited I’ve seen anyone around Houston so far came from Justin Verlander when he found out 2017 World Series champion teammates Brian McCann and Evan Gattis will combine on the first pitch before Game 1. If the rest of Houston is as excited as JV is, it’s going to be a loud start to this Fall Classic. — Mullen
Pick against Gerrit Cole at home with six days’ rest after allowing one run in three playoff starts so far? Not me. Max Scherzer pitches well, but the Astros tack on a couple of late runs and Yordan Alvarez finally hits his first postseason home run. Astros 5, Nationals 1 — Schoenfield
The Astros don’t lose at home. Gerrit Cole doesn’t lose, period. Max Scherzer will make this one fun, but it’s really hard to imagine Houston dropping the opener of this series at a rocking Minute Maid Park. Astros 3, Nationals 2 — Mullen
Best of the playoffs so far
Our running postseason MVP: How good is Gerrit Cole right now? Everyone agrees he was a little off in Game 3 of the ALCS, yet he nonetheless shut out the Yankees over seven innings for a huge Astros win. For the postseason, Cole is 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts, giving up one run, 10 hits and eight walks in 22⅔ innings. Needless to say, he is on track for one of the best postseasons ever for a starting pitcher.
The play of this October: We’re going to cheat and make this plays: the back-to-back home runs by the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto off the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Kershaw in the wake of Soto’s tying bomb could end up as the lasting image of these playoffs.
Game of the postseason so far: Nationals-Dodgers, Game 5 of the NLDS. The Dodgers ambushing Stephen Strasburg, Strasburg settling down and keeping the Nats in it, Walker Buehler‘s mastery, Kershaw’s big strikeout before his eighth-inning implosion, Howie Kendrick‘s 10th-inning grand slam, questions for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. There’s a lot to unpack here, and this was a true postseason classic.