We haven’t been here in over 20 years. The Atlanta Braves are in the World Series. And they’ve somehow made it here without Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Soroka, and Marcell Ozuna. How we made it here, we mostly know. But you might not know much about our opponent — the Houston Astros.
The Astros won 95 games to win the AL West. The AL West was quite good this year with the Mariners winning 90 games and the A’s winning 86. But this wasn’t a regular season performance on the level of the Dodgers and Giants, who dominated the regular season with 106 and 107 wins, respectively. So if you simply go by their regular season performances, the opponent the Braves just conquered is better than the one they are to face. But I doubt that makes any of us feel much better. The Astros are still the Astros who have been in the World Series now 3 out of the last 5 years.
But from here, I’m going to focus on the names you’ll see the most in this series if their previous two series have been any guide. Gone are Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole from the rotation. They have ridden starters Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers, and Luis Garcia most heavily in this postseason. They have made 8 out of the 10 starts so far this postseason. Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy have both made one start, and neither were pretty. But Lance McCullers will miss the World Series due to a forearm injury, so the Astros are extremely depleted in the rotation. McCullers had been their only effective starter (only one run given up in two starts totaling 10.2 IP), and Garcia and Valdez have struggled. They’ve combined to give up 17 earned runs in 24.1 IP across 6 starts. With McCullers out, Greinke, Urquidy, or someone who hasn’t started in the postseason will grab the rubber. The Astros cannot match us at all in the starting rotation.
What has bailed them out has been a devastating relief core. Kendall Graveman, Phil Maton, Cristian Javier, Ryne Stanek, and Ryan Pressly have been just what they’ve needed. They have combined to only give up 4 runs in 34 innings. Bottom line: if you don’t get to the starters, there may not be a late-inning comeback. They simply have more buttons to press in the late innings.
On the offensive side, they’ve been doing a lot of the same as us: penciling in the same 8 or so guys into the lineup every day. And their lineup is decidedly deeper than ours: Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel is simply a deeper core than what the Atlanta crew can throw out there. Alvarez has been their Eddie Rosario, a man on fire. His .441/.535/.794 has been Rosarian in scope. Because of the injuries to Muncy and Turner, there were some holes in the LA lineup. With Dansby and d’Arnaud struggling, we have some holes in ours. I can’t say the same about Houston.
Not to be overly simplistic, but with how the Astros have performed this postseason, the answer is easy: get to the starters early, or this series could be short in their favor.
Do you think Atlanta has the horses to keep up with Houston?