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World Series Game 1: There Will Be Strikeouts

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Twenty-eight teams will be home watching on TV. Two teams are left playing for the World Series title. The Washington Nationals, who looked like they wouldn’t even make the postseason as late as June, represent the National League. The Houston Astros, who for all but a brief couple of moments this year looked like the best team in all of baseball, represent the Junior Circuit. One of them will be crowned champion no later than a week from tomorrow. Tonight the World Series gets underway.

And boy, oh boy, does it get underway with a whale of a pitching matchup.

The Game: World Series Game 1: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern
The Ballpark: Minute Maid Park, Houston Texas
The Network: Fox
The Starters: Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole

The Upshot:

Gerrit Cole was 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings pitched, giving him a staggering 13.818 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season. That’s the highest strikeout rate . . . ever. Max Scherzer’s season was interrupted by injury so his strikeout total was “only” 243, but his strikeout rate was 12.7 Ks per nine innings. That trailed only Cole in the majors this year and is the fifth highest rate ever. Yeah, the top of that leaderboard is littered with recent seasons, reflecting a massive change in the game over the past few years, but these two are still massively impressive strikeout artists, each of whom will be throwing fire tonight.

As for their postseason performance: Cole has continued his strong work, posting a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings across three starts. If you combine the regular season and the postseason he is 19-0 over his past 25 starts with a 1.59 ERA which is absolutely ridiculous. Scherzer has struck out 27 batters in 20 innings with a 1.80 ERA in October, so neither have fallen off. What’s more, tonight both Cole and Scherzer go on extra long rest, as Cole has not pitched since October 15 and Scherzer has not pitched since October 12. So, you have to figure, each of them will have a little more giddyup in their fastballs. Which, actually, could be a problem if they’re too amped. I’m not sure how one tells Max Scherzer to calm down, though. You wanna tell him? I’m not tellin’ him.

Let’s see, what else: the Nationals open on the road but they’re 4-1 in postseason road games this year, so they don’t mind. It’s supposed to be a beautiful night in Houston but the Astros are keeping the roof closed so that it’ll be louder and crazier in there, so that’ll be fun. Given who is pitching, it’ll be one of those games where even a clean single causes the crowd to roar or fall silent for a spell, depending on who’s doing the singling.

Washington has never played in the World Series. These two teams, despite sharing a spring training complex in West Palm Beach, have not faced each other in a game that has mattered since 2017. As such, there will be an unfamiliarity with all of this on a couple of levels. Between that and a matchup of clubs that each have multiple strong starting pitchers, the 2019 World Series feels like something of a throwback going in.

Strangers meeting with aces dealing. How very . . . 20th century.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.