World Series Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros

World Series Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros

by October 25, 2021 2 comments

The Atlanta Braves will make their first World Series appearance since 1999, while the Houston Astros will be in their third in five years. For the Astros, this isn’t a surprise as they were one of the best teams in the American League all season finishing second to the Tampa Bay Rays in wins with 95. On the Braves side, they had to grind out an 88-win season and wound up winners of a horrible, but competitive, National League East.

The Braves have been hot though, taking down the three-headed monster in Milwaukee, and slaying the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros, on the other hand, handled the not-ready-for-prime-time Chicago White Sox and survived a scare from the Boston Red Sox going down 2-1 before taking three in a row. It should be an action-packed series as usual and three of our senior baseball writers got together to give their keys to victory along with their predictions. Let’s dive in and take a look at how the teams stack up in the 117th World Series.

Three Keys to Victory for the Atlanta Braves

Cool the Astros bats

During the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Braves pitching staff was key to getting to this spot. They were able to shut down the Dodgers’ offense with plenty of punchouts. Tyler Matzek came up huge in Game 6 when he needed to. He struck out the side in the seventh after coming on with two runners on and no outs with the Braves clinging to a 4-2 lead. This type of pitching will have to continue to come from Matzek and the rest of the pitching staff, especially the top guys in the rotation Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Charlie Morton. The Astros have been the most dangerous offense of the season, leading the league with a 116 wRC+ and 5.41 runs per game in the regular season. They then scored 67 runs in 10 games so far this postseason. – Alex

Build on the offense’s success

Eddie Rosario won NLCS MVP for a reason. Between him, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and others, Atlanta has a chance to extend its brilliance at the plate into the World Series. The bats were able to overcome a matchup against a talented group of Dodgers pitching. Now, it must continue to stay hot against an Astros pitching staff that gave the surging Red Sox plenty of trouble in the ALCS. – Andersen

Control the running game

Although the Braves are in the World Series, they have been inept at one thing during the postseason and that is controlling the running game. The Dodgers and Brewers combined for 13 stolen bases without getting anyone thrown out. Travis d’Arnaud along with his pitchers were bad during the regular season throwing out only 16 percent of attempting base stealers (NL average was 25 percent). The Astros can run, swiping seven bases in the postseason so far without being caught. While stolen bases aren’t a huge part of the game anymore in general, in a seven-game series every extra base counts and could make the difference in what should be tightly contested battles. – Johnnie

Three Keys to Victory for the Houston Astros

Contain Rosario

While there were other key bats in the Braves lineup, Rosario was the one who has been the hottest and can ride that into the World Series. After a historic 14-hit NLCS, he has now gone 18-for-38 (.474) with three home runs and 11 RBI in 10 games. The Astros pitching staff is going to have to figure out how to slow him down as he has been one of the main catalysts for the Braves. Despite facing some of the best pitchers in the league, including Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler, the outfielder hasn’t let that stop him. Houston has pitched well this postseason but has a number of young arms with little October experience. But they were able to shut down a hot Red Sox offense, and doing the same with the Braves starts with the NLCS MVP. – Alex

Let the pitchers grind

Amidst an eventful ALCS, perhaps nothing was more exciting than Framber Valdez‘s one-run, eight-inning effort in Game 5. While Valdez did the dirty work in that one, credit should be given to manager Dusty Baker, too. The veteran skipper was unafraid to let Valdez go the distance and continue to carve up Boston batters. Now, in the World Series, he needs to demonstrate similar faith, especially considering he can’t rely on all of his starters to throw daily gems. If a pitcher is cruising, keep them in the game to kill innings and finish (or, at least, build on) what they started. – Andersen

Lights out bullpen

As Andersen mentioned above, the Astros cannot depend on all of their starters throwing gems. Houston’s bullpen has been up to the task so far in this postseason. While the starters have a 5.92 ERA with an abysmal 35/20 K/BB rate in just 38 innings, the bullpen sports a 3.42 ERA with a 56/15 K/BB rate in 50 innings. Without Lance McCullers, the relievers will be relied on a little more. In particular, Dusty has a deep squad and needs to lean on his five studs in Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek, Kendall Graveman, and Ryan Pressly who have combined for a 1.06 ERA with a 39/10 K/BB rate in the postseason. – Johnnie

Analysis

Prediction: Astros in five

Both of these teams have caught fire at the right time, riding that fire into the World Series. The Braves have gotten this far despite only winning 88 games and being without key guys especially Ronald Acuña Jr. The Astros steamrolled their competition in the regular season on their way to a 95-win season. They kept it going in the postseason while seeing some key pieces fueling the offense.

The Braves just defeated the defending champion Dodgers with their dangerous lineup and impressive pitching. However, the team that is more likely to cool off and be contained is Atlanta. In fact, back in August, the Braves hit a very cold stretch in which they hit just .226 with runners in scoring position and scored three runs or less in four of six games. That followed a 16-2 stretch in which they scored five runs or more in nine of those games. The Astros hot bats will continue to ride and give the Braves arms issues, while the Astros pitching staff will limit the damage. This series turns out to be more lopsided than people expect and Houston proves that they can win without banging on a trashcan. – Alex

Prediction: Braves in six

Let me preface this by saying that the World Series is going to be very, very entertaining. The Braves, who lost Acuña Jr. and had plenty of concerns around the 100-game mark, battled and earned the NL pennant. On the other side, the Astros lost George Springer in the offseason but still benefitted from a strong year fueled by the likes of Altuve, Correa, Alvarez, Brantley, Greinke, McCullers, Pressly, and many other unsung baseball heroes. Now, the two teams will meet in an epic clash. Both clubs have similarly strong and high-powered offenses, so pitching will be the difference-maker. For Houston, McCullers is hurt while Greinke can’t pitch deep into games. As such, the dominance and reliability of Braves starters Morton and Fried give them the edge in this best-of-seven set. – Andersen

Prediction: Astros in six

Let’s give the Braves credit. They made the moves necessary and got through arguably the best two pitching staffs in the NL in the Brewers and Dodgers. That was also without one of the best players in the game and while Rosario carried Atlanta’s lineup in the NLCS, he is due for a cold spell. Veterans like Freeman and Albies will step up to a point and may even get some big hits. The Astros are consistently good at working counts and hitting mistakes. They are always aware of the game situation and take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. Altuve, Correa, and Bregman will find a way to get to a left-handed heavy Braves bullpen and do damage. – Johnnie


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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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