Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

2019 Major League Baseball Awards

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Realmuto was honored with his second consecutive career Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award

 

Major League Baseball has entered its off-season period, but there is still plenty of action surrounding the game. As teams begin to evaluate their future needs and prepare to shop in the Hot Stove free agent market, the game steps back momentarily to honor the best performances from this past 2019 season.

This past week, MLB continued the process of handing out the hardware to the top players from this past season. Winners of both the Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove Awards were announced, honoring the top offensive and defensive performers at each position in both leagues.

2019 GOLD GLOVE AWARDS

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Winners are listed below with their position and team. Number of career Gold Gloves won are shown in parentheses.

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (6), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Anthony Rizzo CHI (3), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Nick Ahmed ARZ (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (1), RF – Cody Bellinger (1)

American League: P – Mike Leake SEA (1), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Matt Olson OAK (2), 2B – Yolmer Sanchez CWS (1), SS – Francisco Lindor CLE (2), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – Alex Gordon KC (7), CF – Kevin Kiermaier TB (3), RF – Mookie Betts BOS (4)

Arenado (below right) and Chapman (below left) were further honored when they were each named as winners of the National and American League Platinum Glove Awards. This is the second consecutive Rawlings Platinum Glove for each as the overall top defensive performer in their respective leagues.

Rawlings is not the only sponsor of awards for MLB defensive excellence. The winners were also announced for the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year at each position in Major League Baseball.

The Houston Astros were honored as the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year. Individual winners with their number of career Wilson awards in parentheses were:

P – Zack Greinke HOU (3), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (2), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Andrelton Simmons LAA (6), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (4), RF – Aaron Judge NYY (1)

Perez was further honored as the overall Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.

2019 SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS

The Silver Slugger Awards as the top offensive performer went to:

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (2), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (1), 2B – Ozzie Albies ATL (1), SS – Trevor Story COL (2), 3B – Anthony Rendon WAS (2), OF – Cody Bellinger LAD (1), Christian Yelich MIL (2), Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL (1)

American League: DH – Nelson Cruz MIN (3), C – Mitch Garver MIN (1), 1B – Carlos Santana CLE (1), 2B – DJ LeMahieu NYY (1), SS – Xander Bogaerts BOS (3), 3B – Alex Bregman HOU (1), OF – Mike Trout LAA (7), George Springer HOU (2), Mookie Betts BOS (3)

The overall top hitter in each league is honored with the Hank Aaron Award. Each MLB team’s radio and television play-by-play broadcasters and color analysts vote for three players in each league, and fans are given the opportunity to vote via MLB’s official website. Fans’ votes account for 30% of the final points, while broadcasters’ and analysts’ votes account for the other 70%.

The winners of the 2019 Aaron Awards were Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League. It was the second career Aaron Award for each, the second consecutive for Yelich. Trout was previously honored back in 2014.

Prior to Game 4 of the World Series, the winners of MLB’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award in each league were announced.

Taking the award as the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year was Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees, who was honored for the first time.

The Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year was awareded to Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became just the second relief pitcher to be honored two years in a row.

 UPCOMING AWARDS NOMINEES

The winners of the rest of baseball’s official awards will be announced this coming week. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The following is the awards announcement schedule. You can watch as the honorees are named in a live broadcast on the MLB Network each day at 6:00 pm EST.

The nominees were selected based on regular season performance only.

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order with their position and current team, and I have highlighted my pick as the winner in red.

MONDAY: Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award

NL: Pete Alonso 1B NYM, Mike Soroka P ATL, Fernando Tatis JR SS SD

AL: Yordan Alvarez DH/OF HOU, Brandon Lowe 2B/OF TB, John Means P BAL

TUESDAY: Manager of the Year Award

NL: Craig Counsell MIL, Mike Shildt STL, Brian Snitker ATL

AL: Rocco Baldelli MIN, Aaron Boone NYY, Kevin Cash TB

WEDNESDAY: Cy Young Award

NL: Jacob deGrom NYM, Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD, Max Scherzer WAS

AL: Gerrit Cole HOU, Charlie Morton TB, Justin Verlander HOU

THURSDAY: Most Valuable Player Award

NL nominees: Cody Bellinger OF LAD, Anthony Rendon 3B WAS, Christian Yelich OF MIL

AL nominees: Alex Bregman SS HOU, Marcus Semien SS OAK, Mike Trout OF LAA

Other MLB award winners this season included starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg of the world champion Washington Nationals, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Howie Kendrick of the Nationals took the NLCS Most Valuable Player honors, while second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros won the ALCS MVP honors.

Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition for his many charitable efforts both stateside and in his native Venezuela. The pitcher was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and “put in the difficult work to make a return to pitching amid his treatment — all while continuing to give his time, attention and financial assistance to young leukemia patients.”

Mike Trout received the Players Choice Award as the overall Major League Baseball Player of the Year and was also the AL Player of the Year. It was his second American League and first overall honor in voting by his fellow ball players.

Others receiving Players Choice Awards were Anthony Rendon as the NL Player of the Year, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as the AL & NL Pitchers of the Year, Hunter Pence and Josh Donaldson as the AL & NL Comeback Players of the Year, and Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso as the AL & NL Rookies of the Year.

On Sunday, November 17 at 8:00 pm EST, the MLB Network will take a final look back on 2019 as it presents the Plays of the Year for this past season. That highlights loaded program will re-air a number of times throughout the month of November.

I suppose that after finishing exactly at the .500 mark and in fourth place this season, the Phillies could not have expected much more in the way of award winners than the Gold Glove-Silver Slugger combo taken by Realmuto.

Hopefully the results in the standings and in the postseason, including award winners, are more substantial for the club in the 2020 campaign.

 

MORE RECENT PHILLIES AND MLB PIECES:

Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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Super agent Scott Boras again finds himself in the middle of much of the big Hot Stove season action

 

Welcome to the latest episode of the ‘Ring the Bell‘ podcast. For those simply reading this piece at the website, it doubles as the script for today’s episode.

As I discussed in yesterday’s episode which evaluated the Phillies current roster and payroll situations, the ball club has a number of important needs. General manager Matt Klentak will find himself increasingly under the glare of the spotlight as this Hot Stove season moves along and he attempts to fill those needs.

First, let’s take a minute to run down the list of what I see as those Phillies needs this off-season, in order of importance:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Center field
  4. Bench
  5. Bullpen
  6. Third base (?)

That was not a typo in listing ‘Starting Pitching’ twice. It is simply that important, first of all. And also, the club needs two new proven winning veteran starting pitchers, at least one of whom should be an “ace” level rotation arm. Now, let’s take a look at who is available on the free agent market.

STARTING PITCHING

There are two big names here, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. They should and will be the Phillies top two targets in free agency. Principal owner John Middleton has made the addition of top-level starting pitching a priority for the team, and is prepared to spend top dollar to secure such an arm.

The problem is not going to be one of either money or will power. The problem for the Phillies will be that they are not the only team in search of this level of pitching talent, not by a long shot.

The world champion and division rival Washington Nationals and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, are not simply going to let Strasburg and Cole respectively walk away from their ball clubs without a major effort to retain them.

Also, it is publicly known that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be shopping aggressively for this type of arm as well. Speculation is that the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves are among any number of other teams with the desire and money to land one of these top two starting pitchers.

It’s hard to know what is going through Strasburg’s mind. There has been some speculation that opting out of his contract with the Nationals was purely a strategy to get more money from the only organization he has ever known.

The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran was due to make another $100 million over the next four years in Washington. Some have speculated that he could get another $50 million and another year, at least, on the open market.

While it would not be a surprise to see the Nationals and Strasburg announce a new deal at any point, that is far from a given. The longer he hangs out there on the market, the more clubs are going to his agent, Scott Boras, with interest.

Cole is also represented by the Boras Group. The 29-year-old is the biggest name on the free agent market this winter. I expect to see Boras take him on a tour of interested teams and cities, similar to what we saw happen last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Don’t expect to see Cole sign with anyone until February.

While the Phillies will be in the mix for both, their money and genuine interest making them legitimate contenders, they should not be considered the favorites for either pitcher. Cole, a native of Newport Beach, is said to be interested in either a return to SoCal or a spot at the top of the Yankees rotation. Strasburg, a San Diego native, may also go the SoCal route if he doesn’t return to D.C.

It is going to be curious to watch the Phillies pursuit of a top arm, because as I said, what the rotation really needs is two more experienced, proven, veteran starting pitchers.

The longer that Cole remains unsigned, and Strasburg as well for that matter, and the longer the Phillies genuinely believe that they are in the mix for one or the other, then it becomes a somewhat dangerous game.

There is a large group of talented starting pitchers just below the talent levels of Cole and Strasburg. Most if not all of those pitchers are going to sign somewhere earlier than at least Cole will be signing. The Phillies are going to have to commit to one of the next level of pitchers by Christmas, possibly even within the next few weeks.

The most obvious target would appear to be 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turning 36 years of age two days after this coming Christmas, Hamels has already said that he would be open to a return to the club with whom he broke into the big-leagues and first became a star.

Judging by social media, Hamels remains popular with the fan base. And judging by his comments, the feeling is mutual.

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

I know Philly is finally trying to make that push. They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.

Hamels then went on to say, according to Zolecki, that he would even be willing to play on a one-year contract:

I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization…I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win. I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.

This just seems to make too much sense. Hamels is clearly interested in a return to the Phillies. The fans would love to have him back. He has the talent and experience that the club is looking for, and he has something else going for him – Hamels is left-handed. The club has not had a truly effective southpaw in their rotation since, well, since Hamels left in 2015.

No longer in his prime, this could absolutely work on a one-year deal with a club option for another year or two. The Phillies, as long as all the medicals check out, should waste no time with this decision. Klentak should be on the phone with Hamels agent today.

If they just can’t work something out, or don’t want Hamels for some reason, there are other interesting arms.

Available free agent left-handers include 30-year-old, 4x NL All-Star and former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner…32-year-old, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel…33-year-old Korean native and 2019 NL All-Star Hyun-Jin Ryu…29-year-old, 2017 NL All-Star Alex Wood.

Available right-handers would include 29-year-old, former first round MLB Draft pick Zack Wheeler…31-year-old, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello…30-year-old, 2019 AL All-Star Jake Odorizzi.

There are a few dozen other possibilities as well. But frankly, anyone other than the pitchers mentioned already would be a disappointing addition.

The Phillies would be wise to take Hamels up on this word, and wrap him up to fill the 3-4 slot in their starting rotation for 2020. Then they can concentrate all of their efforts into trying to land one of the really big fish.

CENTER FIELD

There are a lot of Phillies fans who seem to think that the club is okay here with either Scott Kingery or Adam Haseley. Frankly, if you truly want to be a contending team, I think that is just crazy talk.

Kingery has handled himself admirably out there for someone who is not a natural outfielder. Haseley deserves much credit for rising from Double-A to a regular big-league role last season.

But neither is the answer for a contending Phillies ball club.

Kingery needs to be handed his natural second base position and allowed to play it every single day, barring some situational need or emergency. Haseley would be well served getting more everyday plate appearances at Triple-A or serving a fourth outfielder apprenticeship in 2020.

There has been some chatter on social media about the team bringing back free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who excelled with the Phillies following his arrival from Pittsburgh at this past season’s trade deadline.

Yes, Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances with the Phillies. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you have something like a 35 homer, 120+ RBI campaign.

However, the 30-year-old Dickerson is a free agent for the first time. He is going to parlay that performance into a nice, well-deserved payday. And he is, unfortunately, not a center fielder. Just 27 of his 571 big-league games in the outfield have been played in center.

If you are thinking of putting him in left field and having Andrew McCutchen slide over to become the everyday man in center field for the Phillies, you really need to think again.

McCutchen is now 33-years-old and has not played center field regularly in either of his last two seasons. He is coming off major knee surgery as well.

While he can spot-start or slide over temporarily during a situational or emergency need, as he did for 10 starts and 15 total games this past season with the Phillies, he is no longer the player who won a 2012 Gold Glove Award as a center fielder.

Roman Quinn is also not the answer. I love Quinn’s tool set and have been publicly in his corner for a few years now. But even someone who is as big a fan as I am has limits. Quinn has proven that he simply cannot remain healthy long enough to be a reliable starting option.

No, what the Phillies really need is a new center fielder, someone from outside the organization. Unfortunately, there really are not quality options available this year in free agency.

You have a premier defender such as Juan Lagares. There is pure base stealing speed in Billy Hamilton. There is an aging veteran such as 34-year-old, 5x AL All-Star, 4x AL Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones.

None of those is a realistic option. Jones played just one game in center last year for the Dbacks, and two years ago with Baltimore he was rated as one of the worst regular center fielders in the game defensively by Fangraphs.

Lagares will turn 31-years-old in spring training and has just a .254/.297/.361 career slash line in 2,119 career big-league plate appearances. With a slash of just .242/.297/.326 over 3,089 plate appearances, Hamilton is even worse with a bat in his hands.

There is no answer available in free agency. If the Phillies want to improve in center field, it is going to have to come via trade.

During this past season, I wrote that a worthy trade target could be found in Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He turns 30 years of age early in the 2020 season and can become a free agent after next year.

If I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone looking to see if we can find a reasonable match in trade for the 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and ALCS Most Valuable Player.

THIRD BASE

Don’t count me among those who feel that the Phillies need a third baseman. Again, this is assuming the club does what I think it should do – give second base to Scott Kingery, and cut ties to Maikel Franco by not offering him arbitration.

If I’m running things, top offensive prospect Alec Bohm is starting at third base on Opening Day 2020. I let him know that right now.

When Bohm’s season ends following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament, at which he is Team USA’s starter at the hot corner, I tell him to go home and enjoy the holidays. Just keep working out and stay in shape. Don’t report to Clearwater until early February. And be mentally ready for your role as the Phillies starting third baseman.

Now, that’s me. The club could actually go in a number of directions. They could offer a contract to and bring back Franco as the starter, at least to begin the season. Then let him try to hold off Bohm for as long as he can.

Or the club could offer a contract to Cesar Hernandez, cut ties with Franco, give the third base job to Kingery, and fill center field some other way. Once Bohm is deemed ready, they could either slide Kingery back to center if no good option has emerged, or work out some king of position-sharing scheme involving the players. That option seems too messy.

Another option would be to cut ties with Franco and sign a free agent. There are a handful of interesting options if the Phillies try to take this route.

In order of talent, those free agent options would be Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon will be expensive and would tie up the position for years, meaning that the Phillies would either be banking on the NL getting a DH as soon as the 2021 season, or they would be considering a trade of either Bohm or Rhys Hoskins. I love Rendon as a player, but with Bohm nearly ready, this just doesn’t seem like the right move.

Donaldson just played on a one-year deal with Atlanta at a $23 million salary. He’ll turn 34-years-old a month from today. Perhaps the Phillies could lure him with a similar one-year offer? That would mean Bohm at least starts the season back at Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Moustakas is a bit trickier. He played with Milwaukee this past season at $7 million and received a $1 million buyout of his contract for next year, rather than the Brewers committing to his $11 million mutual option.

Moustakas is going to be seeking a multi-year offer from some team. He is still young enough that someone is likely to make that kind of offer in order to add a 35-homer bat to their lineup. I am betting it won’t be the Phillies.

Again, my choice here is to give the job to Bohm, spend your free agent money on pitching, and move on from the old, losing Franco-Hernandez infield combination.

BENCH

Putting together a bench group that includes at least a few veteran options for new manager Joe Girardi, preferably options that can hit the ball, will be another Klentak challenge.

The Phillies are already slated to have Jay Bruce return. He should help out as a pinch-hitter, on the outfield corners, and could even turn out to be a lefty-hitting backup first base option, giving Hoskins a blow against a few tougher right-handed pitchers. Girardi should be able to get him plenty of at-bats to keep him sharp and happy.

Assuming the Phillies move on from both Franco and Hernandez, as well as Odubel Herrera, that leaves other outfield depth options as Roman Quinn and Nick Williams. The infield would need help. There are a bunch of interesting options who could fit the bill:

The club could try to re-sign 30-year-old Brad Miller, who appeared in 66 games with the Phillies this past season. Miller played four different positions, mostly at third base and in left field, and produced a dozen homers in just 130 plate appearances.

38-year-old Ben Zobrist can play second base and an outfield corner. He even covered shortstop for one game last season with the Cubs.

Starlin Castro turns 30 at the end of spring training. He played both second and third this past year with the Marlins, and even held down shortstop, where he was a former starter, in three games.

At age 36, Howie Kendrick showed just how valuable he can be in a part-time role while helping the Nationals win their World Series. Kendrick, who played in 39 games with the 2017 Phillies, saw time at first, second, and third this year in Washington.

30-year-old Derek Dietrich ripped 19 homers in 306 plate appearances while covering first, second, and left field this year in Cincinnati. He even appeared in one game at the hot corner, and has played in 146 career games there.

33-year-old Eric Sogard hit .290 while playing five different positions between stops in Toronto and Tampa Bay this past season.

Former popular Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence turns 37 in April, and enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in which he was named to the American League All-Star team. His bat, outfield glove, and infectious enthusiasm could be a perfect mix for this team’s bench group.

The Phillies could use a reliable backup catching option, and yesterday I mentioned one of their former prospects as a possibility. That would be 31-year-old Travis d’Arnaud, who finally stayed healthy this past season and showed off his fine combination of offensive and defensive skills.

More veteran backstop options who could add an alternative to Andrew Knapp include 37-year-old Russell Martin, 34-year-old Matt Wieters, 32-year-old Bryan Holaday, 36-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 34-year-old Jonathan Lucroy and a half-dozen or so others.

These are just a representative sample of the dozens of names who could fill out a veteran bench for the Phillies.

BULLPEN

As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, assembling a bullpen is a tricky proposition from year to year. The Phillies pen was decimated by injuries this past season, but most of those arms should be back in 2020.

They could do nothing, and still end up with an effective group. However, adding someone as a strong, veteran back-end option couldn’t hurt. Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Steve Cishek, Will Harris, and Pedro Strop are just a few of the couple dozen veteran relievers available.

And how about this possibility: lefty Jake Diekman? Wouldn’t it be sort of ironic if the Phillies brought back both Hamels and Diekman, who they traded away together in 2015, in the same off-season? Diekman turns 33 in January, and struck out 84 batters over 62 innings this past season as a southpaw out of the pen.

Again, as with third base, I don’t feel this is an area of desperate need. But if the Phillies want another bullpen arm, there are plenty from which to choose.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, that’s a look at the free agent market. The Hot Stove season is officially underway. Free agents can sign with any team at this point, though signings of the bigger names are likely to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

And those free agent ranks are only going to swell when the December 2 deadline passes for teams to offer arbitration, which is the decision that the Phillies will need to make on Franco and Hernandez.

As we move through the off-season, this podcast will focus occasionally on rumors regarding the club, and I’ll certainly be talking and writing about any big signings.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about the MLB Award winners to this point, as well as the nominees for the major awards to be handed out next week, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards in each league.

Remember, you can follow any written pieces or podcast episodes through links at the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds @philliesbell. I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy. Until next time, God bless you and yours.

J.T. Realmuto wins 2019 NL Gold Glove Award

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J.T. Realmuto becomes the first Phillies catcher in 20 years to win an NL Gold Glove Award

 

The winners of the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced on Monday evening, with J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies earning the hardward at the National League catcher position.

Three nominees at each of the nine positions on the diamond in both the National and American Leagues had previously been announced. The Phillies had three NL nominees: Realmuto at catcher, Bryce Harper in right field, and Aaron Nola at pitcher.

The Phillies would go one-for-three as the winners were announced in a special program on ESPN2, with the 28-year-old Realmuto capturing the first Gold Glove Award of his six-year career in Major League Baseball.

After spending the first five seasons of his career with the Miami Marlins, Realmuto came to the Phillies in a February 7, 2019 trade in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart.

During his first year with the Phillies, Realmuto made his second consecutive National League All-Star team and enjoyed his finest all-around season as a big leaguer.

Realmuto becomes the first Phillies player to win a Gold Glove Award since Jimmy Rollins took home the honors at shortstop back in 2012. He is the third Phillies catcher to ever win the award, following Wall of Famers Bob Boone (1978-79) and Mike Lieberthal (1999).

On Thursday, winners of the Silver Slugger Award will be announced. Realmuto is the leading contender to win that award at the National League catcher position for the second year in a row.

Chase Utley, who won the Silver Slugger as an NL second baseman from 2006-09 is the most recent Phillies player to capture that award. The only Phillies catcher to ever win a Silver Slugger was the late Wall of Famer Darren Daulton all the way back in 1992.

When considering all aspects of the game, Realmuto is clearly the best all-around catcher in baseball at this time. He is in the prime of his career, and was arguably the Phillies most valuable player this past season.

The catcher was extremely inexpensive in modern baseball terms after having made just $5.9 million this past season. Eligible for salary arbitration this winter, the Phillies will certainly not allow the situation to ever get that far. Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer has speculated that a new deal could be at $110 million over five years.

Realmuto is due to become a free agent following the 2020 season. Having given up one of the top pitching prospects in baseball in Sanchez in order to obtain him, the Phillies certainly do not want to lose Realmuto on the open market.

In addition to all of the work that general manager Matt Klentak needs to get done this off-season in order to push the Phillies from their current status as a .500 team to contending status, working out a contract extension with Realmuto also needs to be high on his agenda.

NOTE: Featured Photo Courtesy of Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography (Twitter: @MarkKrajnak)

 

More on the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball:

World Series Game 7: Top 20 in Major League Baseball history

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Koufax dominated the 1965 World Series as no other pitcher before or since, capturing MVP honors in leading the Dodgers to the title

 

On Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the host Astros will battle the Washington Nationals for the 2019 championship of Major League Baseball.

The first modern World Series was held all the way back in 1903 and has been conducted every year since 1905, with the notable exception of the 1994 season when the Fall Classic was cancelled due to a player’s strike.

Since 1922, the World Series has always been contested in a best-of-seven games format. That has not always been the case. The very first series in 1903 and again each year from 1919-21, there was a best-of nine games format utilized. None of those went the distance.

This will mark the 44th time (over 38%) that the Fall Classic has gone the ultimate full distance. On three occasions, there was a tie game in the series. Those took place in 1907, 1912, and in 1922. That 1912 series was notable in that it went a full seven games and also included one ending in a tie, so eight games were actually played.

The longest stretch that MLB has gone without enjoying a Game 7 in the World Series was in the decade between the 2002 and 2011 seasons.

The most consecutive Game 7’s occurred between 1955-58 when the drama went the distance in four straight years. From 1952-75 there was a halcyon period in which 15 (62.5%) decisive Game 7’s took place.

Here are my selections as the Top 20 Game 7’s in World Series history, with a brief synopsis. You’ll note that I haven’t chosen to rank them, but rather they are presented in reverse chronological order. Every one was a fantastic finish to the season. Feel free to leave a comment or response on social media with your own favorite.

2016: Cubs – 8, Indians – 7 (10 innings)

The Cubs were under the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat‘ for more than 70 years at this point, and had not won a World Series since 1908. They bolted to a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning, but the Indians roared back. The host Tribe got a two-out RBI double from Brandon Guyer and two-run homer by Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman to tie it up in the bottom of the 8th. The game rolled into extra innings, and Chicago scored twice in the top of the 10th for an 8-6 lead. The Indians were still not finished, with Davis delivering an RBI single to make it a one-run game. But Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out, third baseman Kris Bryant firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to finally end the curse and bring the Cubbies and their long-suffering fans a world championship.

2014: Giants – 3, Royals – 2

Five of the previous six games in this Fall Classic had been blowouts, with only the Royals 3-2 win in Game 3 as a tight affair. This one would be won for the Giants by a fantastic five-inning relief performance from ace lefty Madison Bumgarner, who had previously won Games 1 and 5 as the starting pitcher. A one-out RBI single in the top of the 4th inning by Mike Morse off Kelvin Herrera scored Pablo Sandoval, breaking a 2-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. Bumgarner shut the Royals out on two hits over those final five frames, getting Salvador Perez to pop out with the potential tying run at third base for the final out.

2001: Diamondbacks – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees were the three-time defending World Series champions, and they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. There, manager Joe Torre turned the game over to living legend closer Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history. But the host Dbacks refused to lay down and go quietly. Tony Womack ripped a one-out RBI double to tie the game. Then, in one of the most dramatic endings of all-time, Luis Gonzalez looped a series-winning single to center, scoring Jay Bell with the walkoff run as the home crowd went crazy in celebration of the only World Series title in Arizona history.

1997: Marlins – 3, Indians – 2 (11 innings)

In just their fifth season of existence, the Florida Marlins became the first since MLB instituted Wildcard playoff teams for the 1994 season to reach the World Series and also the first to win it all. The Indians were kept from their first World Series crown since 1948, a streak that has now reached 72 years. In this one, the host Tribe led 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. Craig Counsell‘s RBI sac fly off Jose Mesa brought Moises Alou home with the game-tying run, sending the contest to extra-innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria walked it off with a two-out, bases loaded single that barely ticked off pitcher Charles Nagy‘s glove, scoring Counsell with the series-winning run.

1991: Twins – 1, Braves – 0 (10 innings)

The only Game 7 in World Series to go scoreless into extra innings took place at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota. For the visiting Braves, John Smoltz went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and one walk in a brilliant performance. Unfortunately he was out-dueled by a fellow future Hall of Famer, as Jack Morris went the distance for the host Twins. Morris shut the Braves out, scattering seven hits over 10 innings for the win. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off Atlanta reliever Alejandro Pena and moved to third base on a ground out. After back-to-back intentional walks to Chuck Knoblauch and Kirby Puckett loaded the bases, Gene Larkin walked it off with a series-winning base hit.

1987: Twins – 4, Cardinals – 2

Lefty Frank Viola gave the host Twins a strong eight innings on the mound at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the home team would rally from an early deficit for the victory. Kirby Puckett‘s RBI double tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the 5th inning. Three of the first four batters in the bottom of the 6th each worked walks to load the bases, and Greg Gagne then produced an RBI single to put the Twins up 3-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. With two outs in the home 8th, Dan Gladden doubled off Cardinals closer Todd Worrell to drive in an insurance run. Twins closer Jeff Reardon coaxed Willie McGee to ground out, with third baseman Gary Gaetti firing across to first baseman Kent Hrbek to wrap the first World Series title since the franchise moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season. As the Washington Senators, they had previously won it all just once, back in 1924 in another seven-gamer that you will find listed below.

1982: Cardinals – 6, Brewers – 3

At Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, the visiting Milwaukee Brewers were looking for the first world championship in franchise history. Formed originally as the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. This version of the team was nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after manager Harvey Kuenn, and they took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 5th inning when future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor delivered an RBI single and later scored another run on a Cecil Cooper base hit. But Keith Hernandez tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of that inning, and George Hendrick followed with an RBI single to give Saint Louis a 4-3 lead. The host Cards tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter closed it out with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th inning. The Brewers remain one of seven current MLB teams to never win the World Series, a list that the Nationals will try to knock down to six in tonight’s game.

1979: Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1

For the second time in the decade, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles were battling in a World Series Game 7. These “We Are Family” Pirates had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, forcing this decisive game at Memorial Park in Baltimore. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the 6th inning, future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell crushed a two-run homer off Scott McGregor to put the Pirates on top. The Bucs would add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning, and closer Kent Tekulve would shut the Orioles down in order in the bottom of the frame. The 39-year-old Stargell delivered four hits for the Pirates and was honored as the World Series MVP.

1975: Reds – 4, Red Sox – 3

The day after Carlton Fisk‘s historic 12th inning walkoff home run had tied the World Series at three games apiece, the visiting ‘Big Red Machine’ would battle back to win at Fenway Park in one of the most exciting Game 7’s in baseball history. An RBI single from future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski gave host Boston an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Reds starter Don Gullett then walked in a pair of runs later in the frame, and the Bosox had a 3-0 lead. It was beginning to appear as if the 57-year-old ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was about to be broken. In the top of the 6th with Johnny Bench aboard, Tony Perez drilled a clutch two-out, two-run homer off Bill Lee to cut the Reds deficit to 3-2. Then with two outs and two on in the top of the 7th, Pete Rose RBI single scored Ken Griffey with the tying run. The game went to the top of the 9th inning still tied at 3-3 when, with two outs, Joe Morgan‘s looping RBI single scored Griffey to push the Reds in front by 4-3. Southpaw Will McEnaney set Boston down in order in the bottom of the 9th, getting Yaz on a fly ball to end it.

1972: Athletics – 3, Reds – 2

Two great dynasties of the 1970’s were meeting here. The A’s would win three straight World Series titles from 1971-73, and the ‘Big Red Machine’ would capture back-to-back championships in 1975-76.  The first five games in this Fall Classic were each decided by a single run. In Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the two teams were tied at 1-1 into the 6th inning. There, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando ripped back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to push the “Swingin’ A’s” out to a 3-1 lead. Tony Perez sac fly off Rollie Fingers scored Pete Rose with a run to make it a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Fingers hit Darrel Chaney with a pitch, giving the host Reds once final shot. But Fingers retired Rose on a fly to left, and the A’s had the second of their three straight World Series crowns.

1971: Pirates – 2, Orioles – 1

This was a meeting between two of the top teams from the entire decade of the 1970’s. The Pirates won six NL East Division crowns in the decade, two NL pennants, and a pair of World Series titles. The Orioles won five AL East Division crowns, three AL pennants, and a World Series title during the decade. The defending world champs, Baltimore was hosting Game 7 at Memorial Stadium. Mike Cuellar would toss a gem for the O’s, holding the potent Bucs attack to just two runs on four hits over eight innings. Unfortunately for him, Pittsburgh starter Steve Blass was even better. He went the distance, also allowing just four hits. With two outs in the top of the 4th, Roberto Clemente gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a home run blasted to left-center field. The two teams traded 8th inning runs and went to the 9th with the Bucs clinging to a one-run lead. Blass retired slugger Boog Powell and future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to open the bottom of the 9th, then ended it with a ground out.

1965: Dodgers – 2, Twins – 0

This one was all Sandy Koufax. The future Hall of Fame southpaw had shut the Twins out over the first six frames of Game 2, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter and watched as Minnesota got to the Dodgers bullpen for five runs in a 5-1 win that put the Twins up 2-0 in the series. Koufax returned for the start in Game 5, shutting Minnesota out on just four hits in a complete game victory to put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the series. The Twins then tied it up, setting up this Game 7 at Dodger Stadium. Manager Walter Alston opted to bring Koufax back on just three days rest, and his ace would not let the team down. Once again, Koufax tossed a shutout, allowing just three hits as the Dodgers won their fourth World Series title in 11 years, their third since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. In all, Koufax allowed a single earned run and 13 hits over 24 innings across his three starts with a 29/5 K:BB ratio, and was awarded his second World Series MVP Award in three years.

1962: Yankees – 1, Giants – 0

One of only two 1-0 Game 7’s in World Series history took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This would mark the 20th World Series crown for the dynastic Bronx Bombers in 40 years, but would also be their last for the next decade-and-a-half. Meanwhile, the Giants would have to wait another 38 years to celebrate a championship. Ralph Terry tossed a complete game shutout for the Yanks, allowing just four hits. The game’s lone run scored in the top of the 5th when the Yankees loaded the bases against Giants starter Jack Sanford with a pair of singles and a walk. Tony Kubek then hit into a double play, but Bill Skowron raced home with a run to give New York a 1-0 lead. With two out and Matt Alou standing at first base in the bottom of the 9th, Willie Mays ripped a double to right field. Right fielder Roger Maris made a tremendous play on the ball, getting it back in to second baseman Bobby Richardson to hold Alou at third base. This brought future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey to the plate with the potential tying run at third and winning run at second. McCovey ripped a line drive that he would later claim was the hardest hit ball of his career. But the liner sank as it reached Richardson, who fielded it cleanly for the final out.

1960: Pirates – 10, Yankees – 9

This was one of the more unusual World Series in history in that the Yankees won their three games by routs, outscoring the Pirates 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. Meanwhile, the Bucs three wins came in more competitive 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2 ball games. Game 7 was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and the host Pirates scored twice each in the 1st and 2nd for an early 4-0 lead. The Bronx Bombers battled back to take a 7-4 lead in the top of the 8th. The big hit came in the top of the 6th when 35-year-old future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra crushed a three-run homer. The Pirates chipped away for two in the home 8th to make it a 7-6 game. Then Hal Smith drilled a three-run home run, scoring Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat to push the Pirates back on top by 9-7 as the game went to the 9th inning. But the Yankees failed to surrender, tying it up on an RBI single by Mickey Mantle and RBI ground out by Berra. With the game knotted at 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th, second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the inning against Ralph Terry. On a 1-0 pitch, Maz drove a ball just over the wall in left field, giving the Pirates a dramatic walkoff World Series title with what has been called “the greatest home run in baseball history.”

1946: Cardinals – 4, Red Sox – 3

Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. That was how the 1946 Fall Classic went over the first six games, with the Red Sox and Cardinals trading wins to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park in Saint Louis. This was the first World Series played after World War II, and would turn out to be the only shot at a championship for perhaps the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, Ted Williams. It would not be a great series for ‘Teddy Ballgame’, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator in WWII and who would do so again in Korea. Williams batted just .200 with five hits over 25 at-bats, five walks, and just one RBI. He would to 0-4 in the Game 7 finale. Dom DiMaggio, brother of Yankees star and Williams’ rival Joe DiMaggio, would try to play the Bosox hero, driving in all three Boston runs. His clutch two-out, two-run double in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. In the home 8th, Enos Slaughter led off with a base hit. Then with two outs, Harry Walker lined a double to center. Slaughter was running on the play, and then ignored a stop sign at third put on by coach Mike Gonzalez. Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky took the relay throw, turned, appeared stunned that ‘Country’ Slaughter was running, and fired weakly to the plate. Slaughter was safe at home on his now famous ‘Mad Dash‘, and the Cardinals had what would prove to be the World Series-winning run.

1940: Reds – 2, Tigers – 1

Detroit and Cincinnati traded wins over the first six games, with neither team able to put together two in a row to take control. This set up a dramatic Game 7 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The visiting Tigers jumped out first on a two-out RBI single from 37-year-old future Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer. Tigers starting pitcher Bobo Newsom and Reds starter Paul Derringer would each go the distance in this one, and that 1-0 lead for Detroit held into the bottom of the 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles to lead off the frame by Frank McCormick and Jimmy Ripple tied it up, and later a one-out sac fly by Billy Myers brought home Ripple with what would prove the series-winning run. Derringer set Detroit down in order in the 9th, wrapping up the first World Series crown for Cincinnati since the 1919 club had won a controversial title against the scandalous Chicago “Black Sox” team. It would be the last Cincy title until the ‘Big Red Machine‘ came along in the 1970’s.

1926: Cardinals – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees, whose 27 World Series crowns are more than any franchise in Major League Baseball, had won just one title in the first 26 years of their history to this point. The Cardinals have won 11 championships, more than any team in National League history. Their franchise had been around since 1882, but had not yet won a championship since joining the NL for the 1892 season. This was the first of five meetings in the Fall Classic between the two teams, something that has not happened now since 1964. The great Babe Ruth homered three times in Game 4 to pull the Yankees even at two games apiece. This was the legendary game in which Ruth had promised a sick boy, Johnny Sylvester, that he would hit a homer for him. But it would also ultimately be a base-running gaffe for which the Bambino would be remembered for in this series . With the Cardinals leading by a run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, Ruth drew a walk off fellow future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander. On the first pitch to the next batter, Bob Meusel, Ruth took off for second base. The throw from catcher Bob O’Farrell to second baseman Rogers Hornsby easily beat the sliding Ruth for the final out. It remains the only World Series to ever end on a caught stealing.

1925: Pirates – 9, Senators – 7

Relevance to tonight’s Game 7 of course in that it was the last World Series to be played in our nation’s capital until this past week. The Senators were the defending world champions. The Pirates had won the 1909 World Series, and would not win another after this one for another 35 years. Washington bolted out of the gate, scoring four times and knocking Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge out in the very 1st inning at Forbes Field. But the Pirates fought back, narrowing their deficit to just 7-6 as the game entered the bottom of the 8th inning. Future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson retired the first two Pittsburgh batters. But then suddenly the Pirates bats erupted. Three doubles, a walk, and an error combined to give the home team three runs, two unearned, and a 9-7 lead. The Senators went down in order in the 9th, and Pittsburgh celebrated its second World Series title.

1924: Senators – 4, Giants – 3 (12 innings)

The first of three straight Fall Classics to make this list, it has also, to this point, been the only World Series ever won by a team from Washington, D.C. The Senators would get four shutout innings of relief from the ‘Big Train’, future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, and rally from a 3-1 deficit at Griffith Stadium in D.C. to force extra innings, finally take it in the 12th inning. A solo home run off the bat of Bucky Harris gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. But the Giants scored three times in the top of the 6th aided by a pair of Senators infield errors to take that 3-1 lead. Harris would again play the hero in the bottom of the 8th, delivering a two-out, two-run single to tie it up. Then with one out in the bottom of the 12th, Sens catcher Muddy Ruel stayed alive when Giants catcher Hank Gowdy dropped an easy foul pop. Given the new life, Ruel doubled. One batter later, Earl McNeely ripped a hard grounder through to left field for the walkoff hit, Ruel rolling home with the World Series-winning run.

1912: Red Sox – 3, Giants – 2 (10 innings)

It is difficult to compare a World Series from so long ago to those of today’s game. And yet it remains an indisputable fact that this ninth contest pitting the winners of the upstart American League against the champions of the more established National League is one of the greatest World Series in the game’s long history. Four of the eight games were decided by a single run, two others were tight affairs, and Game 2 was called off and ruled as an official tie result due to darkness after the two clubs battled to a 6-6 stalemate over 11 innings. So, this Game 7 was actually the eighth game of the series. The two teams were knotted at three wins apiece as they took the field at Fenway Park, now the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, but then finishing up its very first season of existence. The Giants future Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson would go the distance on the mound and took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th. There, one of the earliest and most unlikely heroes in World Series history struck. Olaf Henriksen, a reserve outfielder who had just four extra-base hits over 75 regular season plate appearances that year, was sent up to face the great ‘Christian Gentleman’ as a pinch-hitter with two outs and two men on base. Henrickson came through, ripping a line drive RBI double, scoring Jake Stahl with the tying run. The game went to extra innings, and in the top of the 10th the Giants recaptured the lead on Fred Merkle‘s RBI single. Then in the bottom of the 10th, Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass made an error on a fly ball by Clyde Engle that would become known in baseball history as “the $30,000 muff“, putting the tying run at second base. Three batters later, Tris Speaker scored him with a game-tying single. Two batters after that, Larry Gardner lofted a sac fly to right field, with Steve Yerkes tagging and coming home with the first walkoff run in World Series history.

Will we get an unforgettable, historic moment in tonight’s Astros-Nationals contest to equal Slaughter’s Mad Dash, or the walkoffs provided by Mazeroski, Renteria, or Gonzo?

Maybe there will be a shutdown pitching performance from the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, each of whom is already likely headed to the Hall of Fame. Something to equal the performances of Koufax or Bumgarner.

This 2019 World Series will mark the third time in the last four years that the Fall Classic has gone the full seven games. Whichever team wins, the real winners as the drama unfolds are sure to be all true fans of the game of baseball.

 

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2019 World Series preview and prediction

 

In their 51st season of existence, the Washington Nationals franchise has reached the World Series. They will face-off against the Houston Astros, who have been to the Fall Classic twice previously (2005, 2017) and just two years ago captured their first world championship.

This should be a fascinating match-up, featuring perhaps the best teams in both the National and American Leagues by the time the 2019 regular season came to an end.

Strong starting pitching. Deep bullpens. Exciting stars. Future Hall of Famers. It will all be on display over the next week or so in Houston, Texas and the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.

Over the course of this exciting October of 2019 MLB Postseason play, I provided previews and predictions for all four Division Series, and each League Championship Series after going 1-1 in the Wildcard games. If you followed my advice, you are doing pretty well, as my predictions have gone 6-2 to this point.

Also, prior to the season in my 2019 MLB preview, I gave you the Nationals as my National League champions. A pretty bold prediction, given that many saw the defection of Bryce Harper in free agency as signaling their franchise decline.

While I would like to say that I was also prescient enough to have picked Houston in the American League, I did not. Close, however. I had the Astros eliminated by the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Instead, the reverse happened.

HEAD TO HEAD RESULTS

These two ball clubs have met just twice in Interleague play. During the 2017 MLB regular season go-around, the Nationals captured the first and third games of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston, winning each by a single run by scores of 4-3 and 5-4. The host Astros won the middle affair by a 6-1 score.

Back in 2014, Washington swept a four game series between the two teams at Nationals Park, taking three of the four by a single run each.

From the inception of the Nationals franchise in 1969 as the old Montreal Expos through their move to Washington in 2005, and then on through the 2012 season, the two teams were each part of the National League. So for 44 years, they met frequently.

The Nationals/Expos franchise holds a 244-207 all-time regular season record over the Astros, for a .541 win percentage. The two clubs have never previously met in postseason play.

HOW NATIONALS GOT HERE

The Nationals got off to a horrendous start. Sitting at just 19-31 on May 23, they were in fourth place in the NL East Division. With rumors swirling that manager Dave Martinez‘ job was in jeopardy, their odds of reaching the World Series were less than 1%.

From that point onward, Washington was a completely different ball club. The Nats went 74-38 over the balance of the regular season, finishing in second place and easily claiming an NL Wildcard playoff berth.

In that National League Wildcard Game, the Nationals trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning.

With their season on the brink, the Nats loaded the bases. Juan Soto then delivered a base hit which skipped past Brewers rookie right fielder Trent Grisham for an error and a scoreboard-changing three-run play. When the dust settled, Washington had an improbable 4-3 victory.

Advancing on to a National League Division Series, the Nationals were matched up against the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of seven straight NL West crowns and back-to-back National League pennants.

The Dodgers captured two of the first three games and appeared on the verge of a third straight trip to the NLCS.

However, the resilient Nationals rallied once again, tying the series up with a win at Nationals Park, and then getting a 10th inning grand slam home run from Howie Kendrick to win the decisive Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Four times the Nationals had reached the playoffs in this decade. All four times they had lost in the Division Series, three of those in excruciating fashion.

But now they had advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. Waiting for them were the Saint Louis Cardinals, whose 11 World Series crowns are the most in National League history.

This one was never really a contest. The Nationals got tremendous pitching over the first three games, their offense exploded in the final two, and in the end they swept out the Cardinals in four straight, out-scoring Saint Louis by 20-6 over the four games.

HOW ASTROS GOT HERE

The Astros were one of the favorites to win the World Series when the season opened. They struggled over the season’s first week, dropping five of their first seven games.

But then Houston rolled off 10 straight victories to take over the AL West Division lead. On April 28, they moved back into first place in the division and never relinquished that perch, capturing their third consecutive division title.

In their American League Division Series, the Astros were matched up with the always tough Tampa Bay Rays ball club. Houston took a quick 2-0 lead in the series and appeared ready for a sweep.

However, anyone who underestimates the Rays is asking for trouble. Tampa roared back with two big wins in front of their home fans at Tropicana Field to even up the series.

The Astros restored sanity back in front of their own home fans in the decisive Game 5 at Minute Maid Park. They scored four times in the 1st inning and then coasted to a 6-1 victory, advancing to the ALCS for the second time in three years.

In that American League Championship Series, the Astros were matched up with the powerful New York Yankees, champions of the AL East Division.

On their way to the 2017 World Series championship, the Astros had edged out the Yankees in ALCS, rallying to win the final two contests and taking the series in a full seven games.

This one nearly went the same full distance. The Bronx Bombers took the opener in Houston, but then the Astros rolled to three straight wins and a commanding lead.

The Yanks fought back, winning Game 5 and then rallying for a pair of runs in the top of the 9th inning to tie up Game 6.

Then in the bottom of the 9th, the smallest player on the field delivered the biggest hit of the entire American League season. Jose Altuve ripped a two-out, two-run home run to walkoff the series in front of the delirious Houston home crowd.

SCHEDULE (all games televised on the FOX Network with 8:07 PM first pitch)

Games 1 & 2: Tuesday-Wednesday 10/22-23, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

Games 3 & 4 (and Game 5 if needed): Friday-Saturday (possibly Sunday as well), Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Games 6 & 7 (if either/both needed): 10/22-23, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

STARTING PITCHING PROBABLES

Game 1: Justin Verlander (HOU) vs Max Scherzer (WAS)

Game 2: Gerrit Cole (HOU) vs Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

Game 3: Zack Greinke (HOU) vs Patrick Corbin (WAS)

Game 4: Brad Peacock (HOU) vs Anibal Sanchez (WAS) – for the Astros, this would be a bullpen game, with the hope that Peacock could get them to, even through, the 4th inning

Games 5-7: if needed, expect the Games 1-3 match-ups to repeat

STARTERS POSITION BY POSITION EDGE

First Base – Yuli Gurriel (HOU), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) – advantage Houston

Second Base: Jose Altuve (HOU), Brian Dozier (WAS) – advantage Houston

Shortstop: Carlos Correa (HOU), Trea Turner (WAS) – even

Third Base: Alex Bregman (HOU), Anthony Rendon (WAS) – even

Catcher: Robinson Chirinos (HOU), Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki (WAS) – advantage Washington

Left Field: Michael Brantley (HOU), Juan Soto (WAS) – even

Center Field: George Springer (HOU), Victor Robles/Michael A. Taylor (WAS) – advantage Houston

Right Field: Josh Reddick (HOU), Adam Eaton (WAS) – even

I gave the Astros the advantage at three of the usual eight starting positions, with four rated as an even push. In that regard, this would seem a pretty tight match-up.

However, a healthy Springer joining Altuve, Bregman, Correa, and Gurriel gives Houston five major impact bats for the talented Nationals pitching staff to contend with each night.

Rendon, Turner, and Soto must produce for the Nationals to have any chance. And they’re likely going to need at least one surprise run-producer, perhaps some like their top bench option below.

OFF THE BENCH

Howie Kendrick, whose dramatic grand slam won the Division Series, appeared in 121 games this season for the Nationals and made starts at first, second, and third base. The 35-year-old veteran is a dangerous pinch-hit bat and a versatile infield substitute.

The Nationals other top bench options are usually whichever catcher, Gomes or Suzuki, and center fielder, Robles or Taylor, is not starting. Also look for a trio of veterans in outfielder Gerardo Parra and infielders Matt Adams and Asdrubal Cabrera to make contributions.

For the Astros, rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez will be the Designated Hitter for the games in Houston. He’ll be a pinch-hitter in the games played in Washington.

The other leading bench options will be outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Aledmys Diaz, and catcher Martin Maldonado. Rookie outfielder Kyle Tucker also saw action in both the ALDS and ALCS.

Advantage: Nationals

BULLPEN ARMS

While much of the talk entering this series is justifiably centered on the talented starting pitching for each club, the fact remains that both bullpens are going to have to produce in significant, pressure-filled spots to ensure individual game victories.

The Astros will try to get to controversial closer Roberto Osuna with an all-righty bullpen of Joe Smith, Will Harris, Josh James, Jose Urquidy, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, and long man Brad Peacock.

In his 13th big-league season, Smith has appeared in 782 games. That is the most by any relief pitcher in MLB history who has never appeared in a World Series, a streak likely to end this week.

For Washington, you could see lefty Sean Doolittle or either of a pair of right-handers, Daniel Hudson or Fernando Rodney, on the mound trying to close out a game. Righty Tanner Rainey and lefty Mike Grace are most likely to get any other innings.

Advantage: Houston

MANAGERS

Dave Martinez, Washington: Turning 55 years of age just a month ago, Martinez has guided the Nationals to an overall 175-149 record over two seasons at the helm, finishing in second place in the NL East Division each season.

Back in mid-September, Martinez suffered a health scare when he was forced to leave a game after he began to experience chest pains. He was hospitalized and underwent a cardiac catheterization, and was eventually cleared to return after missing a series in Saint Louis.

A native New Yorker, Martinez was the third round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 1983 MLB Draft. He played in 16 big-league seasons with nine different clubs, including a four-year stint 1988-91 with the Nationals predecessors, the Montreal Expos.

AJ Hinch, Houston: At just 45 years of age, Hinch has gone 481-329 as the Astros skipper. His clubs have taken three straight AL West Division crowns, winning 101, 103, and 107 games in those seasons. He also led the club to the only World Series championship in franchise history back in 2017.

Hinch was previously the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks over parts of two seasons 2009-10, fashioning an 89-123 mark in the desert.

An Iowa native, Hinch was the Oakland A’s pick in the third round of the 1996 MLB Draft out of Stanford University. He appeared in seven big-league seasons, mostly as a platoon or backup catcher, from 1998-2004.

PREDICTION

The Houston Astros are battle-tested after a five-game ALDS with Tampa and a tough six-game ALCS with the Yankees. They have everything talent-wise that a championship team needs. They won 107 games during the regular season, most in Major League Baseball. And they have now had a couple of days to rest prior to the World Series.

The Washington Nationals have enjoyed, if that is the right world, a week-long rest after capturing the first National League pennant in franchise history. They have not lost a game since Game 3 of the NLDS back on October 6.

The Nationals biggest strength is the big three at the front of their starting rotation. For me, the Nats best chance would come from at least two of the three turning in dominating, winning performances.

My head is telling me to pick the Astros. But my gut is telling me to go with the Nationals. Back in the preseason, I picked Washington to win it all. Why not just stick with that since they’ve gotten this far?

Let’s make it Washington in seven games. Sure, it will be hard for many of my fellow Phillies fans to swallow a Nationals victory parade. But hey, they are one of just six current MLB teams to have never enjoyed the thrill of a World Series championship. It’s time.

 

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