HOUSTON - In 2017, the Astros lost Game 1 to the Dodgers on their way to winning the World Series. In the 2019 ALCS, the Astros lost Game 1 to the Yankees on their way to winning the pennant. Losing game 1 isn't new, and losing game 1 does not mean there is a reason to panic.
That being said, the Nationals were impressive in the 5-4 win and now clearly have an advantage as they've flipped home field.
Here are three things we learned from Game 1.
COLE IS HUMAN
The Astros ace and likely Cy Young winner got tagged for five runs in seven innings. It's a testament to Cole's efficiency that he was able to go seven innings, but his stuff was not sharp. According to his catcher, Martin Maldonado, Cole's fastball command looked great in the first inning, then less so. Cole said he didn't have his curveball Tuesday night, and kept putting himself in tough fastball counts.
SOTO IS SO GOOD
Juan Soto is basically the left-handed Nationals version of Alex Bregman, except he's 20. Soto finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 and broke out again in 2019. His plate discipline is going to turn him into one of the best players in the MLB, if he already isn't. Soto punishes misses and waits out even the best pitchers and did exactly that against the likely AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. Anthony Rendon was supposed to be the engine powering the Nationals, but it looks like Juan Soto could be an even tougher out. Soto won't turn 21 for a few days, but he's already in the lineup to protect Rendon.
The Nationals are willing to pitch anyone at any time. Likely Game 3 starter Patrick Corbin pitched the sixth inning for Washington, and did what he was supposed to do: get lefties out, and out of the game. The Nationals aren't opposed to bringing Scherzer out of the bullpen in any game, and it looks to be the same with Corbin and presumably Anibal Sanchez. The Nats had the worst bullpen in all of baseball in the regular season (5.66 ERA) and it hasn't been much better in the playoffs (4.76 ERA), but their willingness to get creative and burn their starters reminds me of the Rays, a team the Astros struggled to put away.
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