Houston Astros Remain the Deep South’s Cream of the Baseball Crop
The 2019 Major League Baseball season has certainly been another rollercoaster ride for fans of the sport. Among the five franchises located in the Deep South, once again, the Houston Astros were the most powerful team. The Atlanta Braves won the National League East and the Tampa Bay Rays finished second in the American League East, earning both of them post-season playoff series appearances.
However, the Texas Rangers struggled to hit the mark, ending their campaign third in the American League West, while the Miami Marlins endured a miserable time by finishing bottom of National League East, concluding the regular season as the third-worst team in the whole of the MLB. Both will be hoping to make serious improvements during the off-season.
Nevertheless, the season as a whole was largely positive for the Deep South’s quintet of baseball franchises, particularly for the Houston Astros, reaching their second World Series in just three seasons after having memorably won the championship in 2017. This time, they faced a Washington Nationals team who were the surprise package of 2019, surpassing all expectations throughout the season.
According to the latest MLB odds on bet365 for the 2020 World Series, the Houston Astros are already being tipped as the +450 favorites. However, there’s no doubt they’ll be thinking that the 2019 World Series was an opportunity that slipped agonizingly from their grasp, following what had been an exceptional season for the team.
Boasting an exceptional 107-55 record through the MLB regular season, no team reached the postseason phase of the campaign in better overall form, having topped both the American League and the AL West Division for the third consecutive season. After beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 to win the Division Series, then brushing the New York Yankees aside 4-2 for the League Championship Series, the 2019 World Series championship was theirs for the taking.
Of course, the Washington Nationals had other ideas about that, in what turned out to be one of the most atypical World Series championships in living memory. More often than not, homefield advantage is typically favorable for the host teams in postseason series games, although in 2019 the opposite proved true. For a historic first time ever in the major North American sports, the visiting team won every game during a best-of-seven series.
Despite being favorites to squeeze the juice out of the Nationals at Minute Maid Park, the Astros lost both the opening games, and home advantage counted for absolutely nothing. That theme continued as the Astros swept to victory in the next three games at Nationals Park in Washington. Finely poised, a win at their home diamond would have clinched the championship for the Astros, but once again, the spoils of victory went to the visiting side.
After the Nationals had taken the sixth game to tie the series at 3-3, for the 40th time in World Series history, a seventh game would be required to decide the final outcome. Despite the Astros taking an early lead, the Nationals came back strong to claim the ultimate victory and their first-ever World Series triumph. “I’ve got a group of heartbroken men in there that did everything they could,” manager A.J. Hinch later told the Houston Chronicle.
While this was certainly a disappointing conclusion to what had been such a promising 2019 MLB season for the Houston Astros, there’s no doubt they’ll be eager to get back to the plate and ready to challenge for the 2020 World Series. Whether any of the other Deep South baseball franchises can match their success, only time will tell, although this sport remains fascinating to many thousands of fans in this part of the country, regardless of the scores.