Game 1 of the 2019 World Series features about as exciting of a matchup as MLB fans could’ve asked for in the Fall Classic. The Houston Astros will host the Washington Nationals, pitting the team with the best record in baseball against the league’s hottest team of the last five months.

The starting pitching matchup has to rank among the greatest to ever kick off a World Series. Gerrit Cole, the sport’s best pitcher this year, will take the mound for Houston. Max Scherzer is Washington’s probable starter, earning the right to get the ball by being MLB’s top pitcher of the last five years.

It’s a difficult assignment for both pitchers. Houston’s lineup put up better regular-season numbers in the American League, but Washington has scored more runs in the playoffs.

The Astros led all teams in the regular season with a .848 OPS. Alex Bregman might win the AL MVP award and Jose Altuve is a three-time batting champion.

The Nationals were the NL’s second-highest scoring team. The Astros were the only team in baseball that had a higher on-base percentage. Anthony Redon had an MVP-caliber season and Juan Soto might become MLB’s best player before too long.

With their ace on the mound at home, Houston is given a sizeable advantage. The Astros are -200 favorites in Tuesday’s Game 1, according to the latest betting line at OddsShark. The Nationals have +170 odds to pull off the upset and steal home-field advantage.

The over/under is just 6.5 with two of the game’s great pitchers ready to take the mound.

Gerrit Cole Houston Astros
Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros pitches in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on October 05, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Houston is not simply a heavy betting favorite because they are at home with a slightly deeper lineup and a better bullpen, though that’s part of it. Cole gives the Astros a clear edge any time he starts.

The Astros have become virtually unbeatable when it’s Cole’s turn to pitch. That includes the playoffs, during which Houston went 3-0 against the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. Houston is 4-4 in their other postseason games.

Houston has won the last 16 games started by Cole. The 29-year-old hasn’t suffered a loss on his personal record since May 22.

Over his last 21 starts, Cole has surrendered more than two earned runs just twice. He’s held the opposition to one run or fewer in five straight starts.

In 22.1 playoff innings, Cole has given up a single run. That was a home run by Eric Sogard in Game 5 of the ALDS when Houston had a comfortable 4-0 lead. Only 17 batters have reached base against Cole this postseason. The right-hander has 32 strikeouts in October.

Even when he didn’t have his best stuff in Game 3 of the ALCS, Cole pitched seven shutout innings against the New York Yankees. Failing to record double-digit strikeouts for the first time in 12 starts, Cole held MLB’s No.1 offensive team scoreless.

Scherzer will have to be just about perfect to give Washington a chance. That’s certainly possible, given the three-time Cy Young winner pitched seven innings of one-hit ball in his last start. Since giving up three runs in the NL Wild-Card Game, Scherzer has allowed one run and five hits with 21 strikeouts in 15 innings.

Even if Scherzer can trade zeros with Cole, the Nationals’ bullpen could be hard-pressed to match the Astros’ top relievers.

The Astros are set up to win Game 1 in what could be a long and exciting World Series.

Game 1 Prediction: Houston over Washington, 2-1