With last night’s 7-2 loss to the Astros, the Braves come home to Atlanta having split the first two games of the World Series. Our guys now own home field advantage in what’s become a best 3 out of 5 series.
That’s the optimistic way of looking at it. Hold on, some of you may be saying, now the Astros have momentum! What would the late great Earl Weaver say to that? “Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.” Weaver (if he really said that—there is some doubt whether he ever did, but everyone attributes that to him, and it sounds like something he’d say) was right about this, as he was about most everything in baseball. That is to say, momentum is greatly overrated in baseball.
But in 2021 baseball, especially the postseason variety, Weaver’s quote overstates the matter. Even your next starting pitcher doesn’t really provide momentum. With starters not even averaging 5 innings per start, you can’t count on the idea of a “stopper” to turn around a loss and set things right.
So what’s going to happen now as the Series comes to ATL? I have no idea, and neither do you! That’s the great fun and charm of the game.
I can tell you what happened last night in Houston. I will be brief, since I assume you watched the game and there are many other accounts of the action available to you.
Max Fried gave up five runs in the first two innings; that’s not good. But he then settled down, retiring the next ten hitters in a row and pitching into the 6th inning. That kept the game within striking distance, and just as importantly, saved some bullpen arms. Moreover, although he wasn’t sharp, he was the victim of some bad BABIP luck and one throwing error (when no one covered third on a throw from the outfield).
The Braves couldn’t do much offensively against Astros starter Jose Urquidy, who went five innings, striking out 7 and issuing no bases on balls. D’Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second, and Freeman had an RBI single in the fifth, but that was all the scoring the Braves managed on the night. The Astros top four relievers shut the Braves out over the final four frames.
The Astros added on additional runs in the 6th and the 7th. After Fried left with two runners on, Dylan Lee came on and pitched very well. He induced ground balls from the next two hittters, but the defense let him down. Ozzie made a wide throw to Swanson that got one out but prevented a DP possibility, and on the next Ozzie dropped the relay throw on another potential DP. (I thought he caught it and lost it on the transfer, but the replay gods disagreed). Anyway, one run scored out of all that. In the 7th Smyly gave up a leadoff home run to Altuve, and then loaded the bases, but managed to escape without further damage.
As I said, Dylan Lee looked pretty sharp. And Kyle Wright pitched a very impressive 8th, striking out the side on 12 pitches. It’s also helpful that none of the Braves’ top four relievers saw action. With the Braves trailing by multiple runs, Snit did not turn to Minter, Jackson, Matzek, or Smith. With last night’s inaction followed by a travel day, all four should be ready for lots of action in Atlanta.
In Friday’s game, Ian Anderson takes the mound against Luis Garcia. I’d like to say that one starter or the other gives their team momentum, but both teams are just looking to get as much as five innings out of their guy. After that, for games 4 and 5, we have no idea who will start for the Braves. But that’s OK. Lots of pitchers will make multiple appearances for both teams in every game going forward.
It’s the World Series! Nothing that has happened before is a reliable guide to what’s going to happen next. My unsolicited advice (which is mainly advice to myself!) is to savor the moment.
P.S. These swings from one game to the next are wreaking havoc on my idea of a lucky shirt. I wore the same shirt in game one of the WS that I had worn in the clinching game of the NLCS. So I was convinced that was THE lucky shirt to carry us to victory, but it let us down last night. Now I don’t know what to wear. It’s almost as if what I wear doesn’t impact the game. It would be a relief to think so, but I can’t afford to take that chance, so I’m looking for the right talisman for game 3.