Astros 7, Braves 2: Momentum Shift? Nah–it’s just one game

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.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

28 thoughts on “Astros 7, Braves 2: Momentum Shift? Nah–it’s just one game”

  1. Kyle Wright’s windup was much more simple last night and looked like a mirror image of what Max Fried has done. Many pitching coaches are pounding this idea to prospects and most that can repeat it, seem to find better results and stay mechanically sound. It was just 1 inning, but it was an electric inning. This is why I value sample size in prospects.

  2. I would be nice to get a great performance from Anderson. I think game three is the key to the series.

  3. @4, I had forgotten just how close this series was.

    My local cable provider (Cox) was having trouble with their Fox feed all game long, so I missed large portions of the game. No other channels seemed to be impacted that I could tell. At least I didn’t miss anything good.

  4. Honestly, I think Games 4 and 5 will be the biggest of all — we at least know who’s starting tomorrow night. At this point, for me, the key is just be to bank as much as we can before we enter the inevitable bullpen game wars of attrition on Saturday and Sunday.

    We’ve basically seen the full spectrum at this point: almost everything went right (with one fairly major exception) on Tuesday, almost everything went wrong yesterday, with the exception of the nice work by the back end of the pen, Lee and Wright. Our offense threatened a few times yesterday but struggled to break loose. Soler’s extra base hits in both games help illustrate just how much more dangerous this lineup is with him in it. Dansby and Duvall’s typical feast-or-famine results both work better at the bottom of the lineup than in the middle of it.

    I’ve said it before about Dylan Lee, and I’ll say it again — he sounds like an Australian singer-songwriter who once opened for Ben Kweller, but he’s actually a southpaw who’s thrown more than half of his career innings total in the playoffs, and he hasn’t let it faze him. I’ve been awfully impressed by his ability to go in there and throw strikes, and I’m sure Snit has too. We’ll need every inning he can give us. He’ll have all offseason to work on his Tame Impala covers album.

  5. @Roger from last thread

    Well, our closer is left-handed and our best reliever is left-handed, and we’re going to use them. We have one good right-handed reliever, and I’m sure we’ll use him too, but we’re not gonna reorganize our bullpen to keep left-handers out of game-breaking situations. Jesse Chavez is not taking Tyler Matzek’s job. If you think that’s what’s required to win the series, I don’t know what to tell you…it ain’t happening. Nor should it IMO.

  6. @7 Folks don’t need to be replaced or eliminated just de-emphasized and used with caution. Both Lee and Smith have shown out well so far and the Braves have just too many lefties to be able to go without them. I just don’t think our lefties will win the series for us. Less Matzek/Minter and more Jackson/Chavez (and Wright and maybe even Martin) is going to be required to win. Anderson will be the big test tomorrow. Win that and pitch Wright in Game 4 and we could steal this series. Fried could give us a big boost in game 6 (or 7) if he adjusts his game plan – pitching more to hitters’ weaknesses than his strengths.

    We are not going to win this series with long stints by Smyly or Minter or Matzek. Minter’s success was measured against a 5-run lead. Fried’s “recovery” was measured against a 4-run deficit. I don’t really believe the narrative about either.

    I want to see the Braves win and trying to push forward with the same strategy that worked against the Dodgers/Brewers is not going to cut it. The Braves have to adjust and adapt, especially with the pitching, to be able to succeed. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s what my eyes and projections and results tell me.

    I thought that if Fried could give us a boost then we could make this a short series, but I’m really looking to Anderson for a big game. One of these games or more is going to end up 2-1 or 3-2 and we’re going to have to have outstanding pitching to be on the winning side.

    I like tfloyd’s analysis and tend to agree with Weaver, but it’s not just about the next day’s pitcher. It’s about playing the matchups correctly and putting your players in the best position to succeed. And it wouldn’t hurt to do less shifting.

  7. Last night was just rough. I agree with others, everything seemed to go the wrong way. I also wonder if Max isn’t tipping his pitches somehow. I seem to recall it was suggested during the Dodgers series and perhaps it has carried over? Also, while the shift has been used well after May, it really seemed to fail last night.

    It was great to see Max sweat it out and save the pen somewhat because they will most definitely be needed soon. Let’s hope Anderson comes out strong Friday because I agree, Sat. and Sun. could be a free for all and tell the tale of this series. Still, we came out of Houston with a split and I think most of us would be pleased with that if we knew that going in. We need 2 out of 3 in Atlanta at the least. I don’t want to have to win both games in Houston if/when we go back.

    @4 – I was in Athens, still in college, and watching from my small rental house for most of the game. Around the 8th inning, my friends called and told me to meet them at the Roadhouse (which I believe no longer exists.) I got there quickly and watched the last inning on their TV and when we won, the bartenders handed out free small bottles of champagne to all of the ladies in the bar. I accepted one meant for a friend next to me as if they were offering it to me. Drank it down with sweet relief and exhilaration. Only championship won in my lifetime (yes, I was alive when the Dawgs won theirs, but I was too young and not as interested to appreciate it.)

  8. I posted this yesterday but I think it bears repeating. I must be missing something because I was under the impression that Houston mashed lefties, but the splits on bRef tell a different story.

    vs. RHP .266/.339/.442 OPS .781
    vs. LHP .270/.340/.449 OPS .788

    So that seems negligible but then you drill down deeper and see that:

    vs. RH-SP .275/.347/.459 OPS .806
    vs. LH-SP .256/.325/.421 OPS .747

  9. @10 I agree with your thoughts on the shift. It seems like the Dodgers started exposing it and the Astros have as well to some extent.

  10. Twenty-four strikeouts in two games are an issue, I think.

    @4 I was in the top row of the upper deck in centerfield with my two sons, having flown in from Chicago for the game. I had tickets for game seven, but had to find someone outside of the stadium to buy tickets for game six. It took over an hour walking around the stadium until a guy selling pens marked “Tomahawk Choppin'” told me that if I bought a pen from him, I’d be able to get into the game. Okay, I bought one, and not two minutes later a guy came across the street with a bunch of tickets for sale. I bought three tickets for $200. Not the best seats (probably the worst in the ballpark) but we were in and had a great view of the flyout that ended the game.

  11. On the other hand, this is clearly the best team we’ve faced this postseason. I guess we’ll see how they adjust.

  12. Thank you tfloyd.

    On the lefty bullpen usage. I start by cautioning that Minter, Matzek, and Smith all could reach a point of ineffectiveness based on use. I don’t think we are there now. Them sitting last night gives them shots in game 3 and 4 (or 5). Then, in 6 and 7. However, usage is a concern.

    But platoon advantage? Interesting stuff on the Fox broadcast last night. Somebody dug up something like “assuming lefthanded pitchers throws average fastball at or over 95, what does platoon split look like.” It almost completely disappeared. You see it with your eyes: Chapman, Hader, and yes, Minter and Matzek. So, barring ineffectiveness from overuse, you don’t reverse them out for lesser pitchers, especially not for handedness.

    I do think an unconventional or non traditional thing (meaning subject to “Snitker rejection”) should be used. Braves need to track which parts of the order each of the main relievers have been through and make sure they are swapped up. Don’t pitch Matzek in the 8th against the same people he saw in the 8th last night because he is “8th inning reliever.” Start him in a different section in the 7th and then do Jackson in the 8th unless Jackson’s platoon would be very unfavorable. Bullpens are very affected by this in the postseason. The 4th time most hitters see most relievers in 9 days, the advantage has swung greatly toward the hitter.

  13. @5, our provider, Spectrum, was having trouble with the Fox feed too, and not with any other channels. I assume it was a Fox issue, and I was a little surprised that the announcers didn’t mention it, or at least they didn’t in the portions of the game I saw. If I had to miss parts of one of the first two games, this was definitely the right one.

  14. @15 Like using Luke against the same part of the Dodgers lineup that beat him up a couple of days earlier.

  15. I am unconvinced that this is sound strategy. I know narratively it sounds good that the more you see a pitcher, the better you hit them (of course tell that to Wilmer Flores facing Max Scherzer who is 0 for 17 against him, the 18th time, now he’s really got the book on him so watch out Max), but does that bear out statistically? For relievers I would bet no, but I’m not sure. I know there is an impact in the same game of seeing a pitcher a 2nd, 3rd or even fourth time. I don’t recall anything showing the impact of seeing a reliever for the first time in a series versus the 3rd or 4th.

    It’s not a bad idea to consider but Matzek faced Betts 5 times in the NLCS and issued 1 walk (on an epic 10-pitch battle) and got 2 pop outs and 2 Ks. I’m glad we kept using him there.

  16. I agree with you, Dusty, but I have no stats to back it up. [Makes note for offseason study…] I think that the very first time a pitcher sees a batter in his career, the pitcher probably has some advantage. That advantage must decrease over time, but I have no idea whether the expected decay rate is very fast or glacial. Most of what is called the result of familiarity is undoubtedly just bad pitching…. throwing one slider too many in the same place or hanging one, for example. NL East batters have seen Matzek and Jackson 15 or so times, but it doesn’t mean you need to find new relievers to deal with them.

  17. Yeah, you pitch your best relievers in the crucial spots and let the chips fall where they may. To do anything else is overthinking it IMO. Minter and Matzek have been as good as anyone could have hoped, and no way I’m prioritizing other relievers over them. Smith still makes me nervous but he’s pitching as well as he has all season and he’s going to be sent out for the 9th no matter what anyway.

  18. I think it goes along with something Smoltz was talking about last night, about how Pressly (in a non-save situation) had the opportunity to set up the Braves hitters by throwing them different sequences or different pitches than he’d throw in a high-leverage situation. A lot of those headgames are just that, headgames, but still, in a sample this small, every little advantage can matter more.

  19. Hey crew. With the Posnanzki article about the Hammers, I got an influx of Hammers orders that I’ll be sending off on Monday. If you want something, shoot me an email.

  20. Thanks, t.

    I am grateful for the day off and hope you all enjoyed the respite.

    Are those beautiful girls full speed ahead again, Ryan?

    Go Braves!

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