The Urena Express: 10/25/21

By Steven Urena

AL and NL Championship Series Wrap Up

Steven Urena

Astros and Red Sox
The Houston Astros have done it. They’re going to their 3rd World Series in 5 years. The Astros hope to capture their first controversy-less World Series championship (second title overall).  What a ride it’s been for the Astros . The Astros are not ever going to win popularity contests but at least now they get a chance at redemption. The players involved in the scandal that rode out the storm will get the opportunity to prove to themselves that they are still men of integrity and to prove that hard work pays off. Finally, a chance to silence the haters and get the ultimate prize in sports…bragging rights.

The Red Sox, just like every team that falls short of the world championship, will go back to the drawing board. The Red Sox, however, will go back with a little more enthusiasm. The Sox were not even supposed to make the playoffs this season. In a rebuilding year the Sox were two wins away from the World Series. Not bad. The Red Sox core of hitters is among the best in the big leagues. Their pitching will continue to be a question. Signing a seasoned power arm and lights out closer this offseason will give the Sox a major boost. It might be just what the Sox need to get over the hump.

I predicted the Red Sox to win in 6. As a matter of fact, I had a catchy hashtag. It was #SoxInSix! As was the trend this season, I was wrong. To my credit, I always said the Astros were a dangerous team in the playoffs and could catch fire at any time. I predicted the Astros to get back to the ALCS but ultimately lose to the Rays. The Astros did their part, the Rays did not.

It was the Astros bats that carried them to this season’s AL pennant. The Astros have averaged 6.7 runs in this playoff run. Their pitching was strong their last 3 games against the Red Sox but ineffective and inconsistent the previous 7 playoff games. The Astros also showed up. They answered the bell in the championship rounds and came up with the big hits to get ahead and delivered the death blow late in games to stay ahead. You gotta tip your cap, they were as clutch as ever.

Offensively, the Red Sox could not get anything going the last 3 games of the series. After putting on a hitting the display the first 3 games of the series, they went stone cold the last 3 games. Maybe the pressure got to them, maybe the Astros pitching finally put it together. Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia pitched the games of their lives the last two games and the pen shut the door to punch their ticket to the Fall Classic. 

This was a great series. Although the Astros pulled away at the end of the last 2 games, the Red Sox were right in the thick of things for most of the game. The players were excited, games were tight and we saw some really good baseball. The Astros anxiously await BLANK.

Dodgers vs. Braves
A tip of the cap and a wag of the finger.

The most important line is the bottom line and the bottom line is the Braves played better than the Dodgers. Good teams win a lot of games. Great teams win the close ones. The Braves won 3 games that could have gone either way. In those 3 games the Braves walked off on the Dodgers twice. In the other game the Braves X Factor, Eddie Rosario, delivered the coup de grâce. 

Eddie Rosario is lucky the first game of the World Series is on Tuesday. His back still might be a little sore from carrying the Braves in the NLCS. What a performance. If we could bottle up “the zone” and sell it, we would never have to work another day in our lives. There’s no way to explain a performance like Rosario’s. His stats were a .571 BA, 14 base hits, 9 RBIs and 3 home runs. It’s part preparation, part focus, part guts and some luck. I felt like every time Rosario batted he was getting a hit, walking or hitting it out of the yard. I hope he’s not planning any trips to LA anytime soon.

The Dodgers continued to leave runners on base. They did a better job of manufacturing runs – beat the shift, steal bases, walk and poke base hits. However, in big situations, the Braves seemed to have the edge. What most stands out to me is the 7th inning of Game 6. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs, down by two. Nada. Nothing! I can honestly say, the Dodgers did not look like they were trying to hit home runs in those situations. People keep assuming we are trying to knock the ball out of the yard every time but that just wasn’t the case. Tyler Matzek was in a helluva zone. It was man to man and the better man won. 

Man for man, the Braves are not in the same league as the Dodgers. The Dodgers are clearly the best team in baseball. The Braves played as a team. Aside from Rosario, there were Braves stepping up every game. Whether it was Ozzie Albies playing lights out defense, the bullpen slamming the door, Freddie Freeman making adjustments after striking out 7 times, Joc Pederson going deep or Austin Riley coming up clutch. The Braves did not lean on one person. They DID THEIR JOB. Bill Belichick would be proud.

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. Mookie Betts hit .174, Corey Seager hit .167, Will Smith hit .217, Justin Turner hit .200 and the most misleading stat is Trea Turner who hit .240 but basically had one good game. There’s no way you can win a series without your horses. This is one of the two biggest reasons the series was lost.

The Braves made key acquisitions during the season. Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson were NOT in the starting lineup on Opening Day. The stars aligned for both parties and boom, they got themselves a dynamic outfield trio. Jorge Soler also joined the outfield that helped carry the Braves to the NL East division title and a hot finish. Give credit to Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos. 

I strongly feel if the Dodgers were the home team they would have won the series. A 106 win team had to go on the road against an 88 win team. I get it, win your division. This one was a head scratcher though. The Dodgers took the long way to get to the NLCS. They had to play the Cardinals in a one game series and get through the 107 win Giants. Their staff was depleted and defeated, the second major reason the series was lost. The Dodgers also lost Clayton Kershaw and Max Muncy. Had they had Kershaw and Muncy, the Dodgers might be hosting the World Series but that’s just the way the cookie crumbled for Los Angeles. 

At the end of the day you take your beating like a man and move on. The Braves were hot at the right time. Now, Atlanta, do us all a favor and BEAT THE ASTROS!

P.s. Tune in later this week for World Series predictions.

P.s.s Also look out for a write up on my take about managing in the 2021 playoffs. Included will be candid and “off the record” insight from a Braves pitcher. Must read!

Contact Steve Urena at:
Twitter/IG: @theurenaexpress

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