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Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 1 World Series win over Astros

Sporting News logo Sporting News 10/23/2019 Thomas Lott
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Houston doesn't like Game 1 of the World Series.

The Astros moved to 0-3 all-time in the first game of the Fall Classic after a 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday.

BOX SCORE:  NATIONALS 5, ASTROS 4

Juan Soto went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs to lead the Nationals to the win while Astros starter Gerrit Cole lost his first start since May giving up five runs in seven innings pitched.

Game 2 is Wednesday.

Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 1 World Series win over Astros

This series is about hitting, not pitching

As much talk as will inevitably surround the pitching in this series there is a simple fact that cannot be ignored and it was summed up nicely by Jonah Hill in "Moneyball."

"Your goal shouldn't be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs."

Yes, this movie had flaws like failing to mention Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder or Barry Zito, but this simple line is very important. You have to score runs to win games. These pitching staffs will inevitably give up runs no matter how amazing they are especially in the starting rotations. What this series is about is who can score more runs off of those stud pitchers. Who can hit better with runners in scoring position? Who can put up crooked numbers?

In Game 1 that was the Nationals. They were able to put up a three-spot in the fifth inning on Astros starter Gerrit Cole and this put Houston behind the eight-ball the rest of the day. And another note here was the Astros once again struggled to hit with runners in scoring position. After going 14 for 70 with runners in scoring position in the American League playoffs, the Astros again struggled, going 3 for 12 leaving a runner on second in the first inning, second and third in the third inning, first and second in the fourth and the bases loaded in the seventh.

The Nationals won the run-producing game Tuesday, now we'll see who wins it going forward.

Max Scherzer struggled but excelled

Looking at Max Scherzer's line, it's not great. He only pitched five innings, gave up five hits and walked three, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner did exactly what he needed to do.

His game started poorly giving up two runs on a double by Yuli Gurriel in the first inning, but he stopped the bleeding. Things could have gotten out of control. He threw around 70 percent of his pitches from the stretch as the Astros were constantly threatening to score a run. But he battled. He fought tooth and nail to keep the score where it was and that was enough to hand the ball over to the bullpen with a 5-2 lead.

Scherzer may not have been at his best, but his grittiest was more than good enough.

Beware the bullpen usage

This is MLB now. Teams go to their bullpens early and in the playoffs, they use their starters as relievers. But we're warning the Nationals right now — do not overuse your pitchers this series.

First of all, the Astros lost the first game of the World Series in 2017 and won it all then. In this year's American League Championship Series, Houston lost Game 1 and won four of the next five. A big reason in both of those series was the overuse of the Dodgers and Yankees bullpens. Houston struggled with Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda, and Kenley Jansen early. It lit all three up later.

In the ALCS this year, Houston couldn't hit Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman early. It dominated them late to win the series.

Now, this worked for the Nationals in the National League playoffs. This is absolutely undeniable. But that was a five-game series and a four-game sweep. This is a seven-gamer. As much as a team wants a sweep at all costs, coming away with one against a 107-win team will be difficult. This bullpen, and starters who are brought on in relief will be extremely taxed if this is how Washington is going to use its pitchers. We warn you now — be careful not to overuse them because eventually, the Astros will take advantage.

Related slideshow: Best of MLB postseason (Provided by imagn)

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