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Washington Nationals Series Preview: 2019 World Series rematch against the Houston Astros

Remember when the Nationals won the World Series? That was fun. They play the team they beat in the Fall Classic this weekend.

Washington Nationals Summer Workouts Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

If someone asked me to sum up the 2022 Washington Nationals in one picture, I’d go with this.

The signature play of the series against the New York Mets wasn’t one of the four home runs the Nationals hit, nor another solid outing from Patrick Corbin. No, it was whatever this nightmare of a baserunning play that was where the Nats made two outs at the same base on one play.

And yes, unsurprisingly, the Nationals lost the series pretty convincingly, though they did have a good offensive comeback in Wednesday’s game to avoid what would’ve been a sweep.

Brace yourselves though, it’s time to bring up the 2019 World Series again! The Houston Astros are in town for the first time since that memorable Fall Classic that the Nats won in seven games.

The Astros arrive in the nation’s capital on a ten-game win streak that has seen them rise to the top of the American League West. For those hoping for a repeat of the result of the World Series, you may get your wish... in that the road team may win every game, most likely.

Here’s the lowdown ahead of the three-game weekend series at Nationals Park...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, May 13th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, May 14th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, May 15th, 1:35 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Josiah Gray (4-2, 3.45 ERA) vs Framber Valdez (1-2, 3.34 ERA)
  • Game Two: Erick Fedde (2-2, 3.90 ERA) vs Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.38 ERA)
  • Game Three: Patrick Corbin (0-5, 6.06 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (4-1, 1.55 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Alcides Escobar: Credit where credit is due. After criticism of his play had built up towards the end of April, he has at least hit a bit better at the plate of late.

Since April 29th, Escobar is slashing .440/.482/.560 with a double and triple in 27 plate appearances. Unfortunately, a fingernail issue held him out of the lineup in the last two games of the Mets series, but the Nats expect him back for the series opener this weekend.

Justin Verlander: Having only started one game over the last two seasons, Verlander decided to stay with the team that he helped win a title with five years ago to try and rebound from injury. To this point in the season, he’s done just that.

Generally in his career, Verlander has relied on the punchout to dominate games, but this year, while his whiff totals are down, he’s still sporting an excellent 1.55 ERA in six starts despite only striking out 36 batters in 42.1 innings.

He will likely take the ball in the series finale against the Nationals on Sunday, facing off against Patrick Corbin, both of whom played big roles in that Fall Classic in 2019.

Who’s not?

Victor Robles: Well, the Robles revival was fun for a while, but there are signs that he may be coming back down to earth with a thump.

In his last eight games following a strong 8-for-14 showing during the team’s three-game series in San Francisco two weeks ago, Robles is slashing .095/.167/.143 with just two hits in 21 at-bats, striking out 10 times and walking only once.

That leaves the center fielder’s line on the season at an incredibly underwhelming .215/.276/.291, with little-to-no power and a fluctuating batting average. Seemingly, it’s the same old same old for Robles since his 2019 season.

Yuli Gurriel: See, I told you we weren’t just picking on shortstops! Gurriel is most definitely not a shortstop but has been having a pretty tough time at the plate since the calendar flipped over to May.

In nine games this month, the first baseman has a poor .147/.237/.206 slash line in 34 at-bats with only a couple of extra-base hits and a sole RBI despite the Astros’ lineup as a whole coming on strong to start the month, ranking fifth in the majors in OPS in May.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Astros storylines from our friends at The Crawfish Boxes...

One more thing to watch

For the first time since he was let go by the Nationals following the 2017 season, Dusty Baker will manage against his former team in a regular-season game — after plentiful Spring Training matchups between the two teams who share the same facility.

Baker was popular among Nats fans during his two-year tenure in which his team won the National League East in both seasons, and will likely receive a nice reception from the crowd in his return.

As you’d expect, the longtime major league manager still looks back on his time in D.C. fondly.

“I really enjoyed my time in Washington,” Baker told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. “The two years I was there was probably some of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever had in baseball, on the field and off the field.

“I always liked the diversity, the people, the education level that was there. I got along great with the organization, got along great with [GM Mike] Rizzo, all the people there.”

Because of that fondness, does Baker still wonder why the Nationals decided to let him go? Not really.

“Why they didn’t re-sign me, I don’t know,” Baker said. “It wasn’t Rizzo because he was just the one that had to tell me the news. That’s in the past.”

Obviously, things have worked out well for both parties since they parted ways.

The Nationals won the World Series just two seasons later with Baker’s replacement, Dave Martinez, at the helm. Baker has guided the Astros to the ALCS in both seasons, winning one before losing to the Atlanta Braves in last year’s World Series.

Either way, it will be good to see Baker back at Nationals Park this weekend, albeit in the other dugout.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: Last week, the Mets managed to come back from six runs down in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, matching the feat the Nationals accomplished against the Mets in 2019. But who were the two starting pitchers from that 11-10 win for the Nationals? If that’s too easy for you, bonus question, who was the winning pitcher for the Nats?

Answer: Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom started the game. Bonus: Javy Guerra got the win.

Well, this question just had to be a question about the 2019 World Series. It had to be. So, here’s the World Series-related trivia question for this series against the Astros...

Can you name the nine Nationals players who recorded at least one RBI during the team’s World Series victory over the Houston Astros in 2019?