five scenarios to watch in the Astros-Braves match – .

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five scenarios to watch in the Astros-Braves match – .


The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros kick off the 2021 World Series on Tuesday night. The Astros have a field advantage thanks to their strongest regular-season record, which means Games 1 and 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park in Houston. (Games 3 through 5 will be hosted at Truist Park.)

The Braves, appearing in their first World Series since 1999, reached this point by first beating the Milwaukee Brewers in four games in the National League Division Series. The Braves then outlasted the defending champions Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-game streak that avenged Atlanta’s loss in last year’s NL Championship Series. The Braves are chasing their second World Series title since arriving in Atlanta.

The Astros, meanwhile, are entering their third World Series in five years. Houston eliminated the Chicago White Sox in four games in the American League Divisional Series. The Astros then beat the Boston Red Sox in six games in the ALCS. The Astros are looking for their second championship in their history.

It is clear that recent experience, if such a thing matters at this level, favors the Astros. Here are five more storylines worth watching as the Fall Classic kicks off.

1. Can the Houston Bats blaze the Braves starters?

The Astros have had the majors’ most powerful offense during the regular season, finishing first in wRC + (a FanGraphs metric that adjusts to approximate stage) and runs scored, and ninth in homers. For our money, one of the more intriguing stories in this series is whether or not the Astros’ roster can find a way to lift the throws they see from the three main starting throwers of the Braves: Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson.

When we write “lift” we mean it literally. No starting pitcher has had a lower average pitch angle during the regular season than Houston’s Framber Valdez (-5.5 degrees). Morton, Fried, and Anderson weren’t too bad themselves, however. Check out their ranks among the 129 pitchers who pitched at least 100 innings:

  • Morton: 18th (6.8 degrees)
  • Fried: 10th (4.7 degrees)
  • Anderson: 8th (4.5 degrees)

There’s quite a conversation to be had about the intersection and interplay of planes of rotation and angles of approach that we’re not trying to have here.

All we’re seeing is that the Astros will have to find a way to get the ball higher in the air if they are to deal maximum damage to the Braves’ spin – a spin that, at least on paper , seems to be the better of the two staffs. If the Braves trio stay true to their regular season form, it will be a difficult task.

While the Astros can pitch against the Braves’ starters, there is a setback to consider.

2. Can the Astros find enough pitch?

The Astros are expected to be without Lance McCullers Jr. for the remainder of the playoffs. Considering Justin Verlander’s absence throughout the season and Zack Greinke’s unstretched state, Houston will once again have to bank on a compromised rotation of Valdez, rookie Luis Garcia, José Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi.

It’s fair to wonder how the Astros will approach this series from a personal perspective, and whether they’ll be able to keep enough leads off the board. During the ALCS, the Astros had just three pitchers registering at least 15 strikeouts: Valdez (who was the only pitcher to register 21 or more), Garcia and multi-innings reliever Cristian Javier.

Garcia, who tends to struggle against left-handed hitters, would appear to be the fulcrum here. Remember, the Braves’ best hitters are largely lefties: Eddie Rosario, Freddie Freeman and Joc Pederson. Ozzie Albies, a switch hitter, will also hit on the left side most of the time. Getting Garcia to start Game 2 (and maybe Game 6) might make the most sense for Houston. That way, the Astros can limit their exposure against the Braves roster without having to worry about burning their field in all three games in three days at the midpoint of this series.

Of course, figuring out how to line up the starters might be the easiest pitching decision the Astros make in this series.

3. Farewell gift from Correa and / or Freeman?

Every World Series game that passes brings the offseason closer together. This represents a catch-22 for fans of Astros and Braves, who must weigh their desire to celebrate a title against their tension over the impending date of a franchise mainstay with free agency. It’s at least possible that Houston shortstop Carlos Correa or Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman will win the World Series as their final act with their current squad.

Of the two, Correa seems much more likely to leave, as he is the favorite to land the richest contract handed over this winter. Correa said publicly in the spring that the Astros don’t believe in those kinds of deals. It’s a statement that has merit: Houston let George Springer walk in the last offseason, so they’ve shown a willingness to pass beloved local players looking for big wins.

Freeman, on the other hand, appears to be a lock on staying in Atlanta. Still, you can’t blame any Braves fan who remains anxious about the situation until the ink dries on a new deal.

4. Which seasoned manager will win?

Hiring young managers is all the rage, but it won’t make for a World Series, not this year. On the contrary, no matter which team wins, a longtime baseball player will get a ring.

Houston’s Dusty Baker has led his teams’ shots in 24 seasons. He is the only skipper to lead five franchises in the playoffs, having amassed over 2,000 career wins. Add to that Baker’s playing career, and it’s fair to write that the one thing he hasn’t accomplished in baseball is winning a World Series as a manager. This could be his last chance, as his contract expires at the end of the series.

Brian Snitker of Atlanta is still a bit new to management. He took over the interim Braves in 2016, then did the unthinkable by winning enough games to keep the job and lead the franchise out of a rebuild. Snitker’s relative inexperience as a skipper (compared to Baker, anyway) shouldn’t make us forget that he’s been with the Atlanta organization in one way or another for over 40 years.

Fun fact to know: Snitker’s son, Troy, is a batting coach with the Astros.

5. The projections favor the Braves… hardly

Normally we like to note how the two teams played against each other during the regular season. That’s not an option here, as the Braves and the Astros haven’t met in a record-breaking game since the 2017 season. The Astros have won all four of them, edging the Braves by 38-13, or more than six. points per game.

What is the predictive power of these games? Nothing. To illustrate this point, consider that the last time these two teams met, the Braves roster included Brandon Phillips, Matt Kemp and Matt Adams, with Jaime García to start.

For something that should have predictive power, we’ll end by noting that SportsLine’s simulations have the Braves as the favorite by the slimmest of margins. Atlanta wins in 50.5% of SportsLine’s projections. Houston, it should be noted, is considered the betting favorite (-150) by Caesars Sportsbook.

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