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World Series prediction

Astros will soar again as lots of rest could be Nats' undoing

Mike Harrington

The pick has been the same since March. There's no reason to change now. The Houston Astros are baseball's most complete team.

When the World Series starts Tuesday in Minute Maid Park against the Washington Nationals, the folks in Las Vegas have the Astros as the heaviest favorite to win a Fall Classic since nailing Boston's four-game drubbing of Colorado in 2007.

A lot went right for the Astros in the final two games of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees to set them up for this series. Jose Altuve's walkoff home run in Game 6 meant Gerrit Cole wasn't needed for a Game 7 and could possibly pitch three times against Washington if needed. Justin Verlander gave up four runs in the first inning of Game 5 but then worked through seven innings to save the relief corps for a bullpen game in Game 6.

The Astros have depth in their lineup, play great defense (what a double play left fielder Michael Brantley pulled in Game 6!) and have the recent experience of winning the title in 2017 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now,  the Washington Nationals have outstanding starting pitching too. Max Scherzer, Steven Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are horses. Fair enough. It could be their equalizer. But those guys better be good because recent history shows teams that sit a week to wait for the World Series after sweeping a League Championship Series are generally toast in the Fall Classic.

Since 1985, when the LCS became seven games, teams sweeping to victory are just 1-7 in the World Series. The lone win was in 1995, when Atlanta beat Cleveland in six games.

Some of the losses were gruesome. The 2006 Tigers lost in five games to the Cardinals and threw the ball all over the infield defensively. The '07 Rockies entered the Series on a 21-1 run – and promptly scored only 10 runs against the Red Sox. The 2012 Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS but then endured a four-game drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, scoring only six runs and getting shut out twice.

Rest is everything in the postseason in the NHL, NBA and NFL. It's often a negative in baseball, where hitters get cold in the absence of their everyday routine and pitchers often are too strong and can't control their stuff as well with too much rest. The Nationals are going to be dissected for signs of the same malady, particularly at the plate.

Give it up to the Nats just for getting here after a 19-31 start and pulling off miracles in the wild-card game against Milwaukee and Game 5 of the division series against the Dodgers. They're kind of the St. Louis Blues of MLB this year, except they're not going to land the trophy. It's going to be two titles in three years deep in the heart of Texas.

Prediction: Astros in five.

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