By Steven Urena
After Adam Duvall hit the 1st inning grand slam for the Braves in the first inning of Game 5, it looked like the Astros were finished. The Astros chipped away, took the lead and beat the Braves by a score of 9-5. The Braves now lead the series 3-2.
So far, my prediction is looking decent. I said the Astros would score a bunch of runs to win 2 games, have 1 ugly win and then win Game 7 because of home field advantage. The Braves I said would win 2 close games, have 1 ugly win and lose in Game 7.
The Braves have a chance to close the show tonight. They send Max Fried to the mound. He’s the real deal. One of the best young pitchers in baseball, without a doubt. The problem is he’s got shellacked his last two starts. He’s allowed 11 ERs in 9 ⅔ innings pitched. He’s got the stuff and the talent to go out there for 6 or 7 innings and slam the door on the Astros.
The Astros send Luis Garcia on short rest. The kid is good but he’s never pitched on short rest. He too has the talent to dominate a good line-up. If he can go at least 5-and-dive and then pass the baton, the bullpen will keep it close enough for the Astros to survive and advance.
The Astros had to score 7 and 9 runs to win Games 2 and 5. They got to the World Series by riding their high powered offense. They’re still in it because of their pitching. Pitching was great in 3 of their 5 games. They send Luis Garcias and most likely Jose Urquidy in Games 6 and 7 for a chance at immortality.
Houston we have a problem. The Astros are ready to send a search party. Their bats have gone missing in the World Series. They hit .341 to get to the World Series. Through 5 games this series they’re hitting .231. Fun fact…through 5 games against the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, the Astros hit 13 home runs. This World Series they’ve hit 2 home runs (both hit by Altuve). Credit the Braves staff but they are not better than the Dodgers staff in 2017. It’s a little harder to hit home runs when you don’t know what’s coming, right?
The Astros have the horses. Now it’s just a matter of them putting it together. The home crowd will help. I see it going to Game 7. Once you get to Game 7, anything can happen.
The Braves continue their well balanced postseason attack. Their pitching staff was phenomenal in 2 games and they jumped on the Astros in Game 1 for a 6-2 win. To this point, the Braves are playing much better than the Astros. Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to believe they are only up 3-2 and have not put an end to the series.
Aside from Game 5, the Braves bullpen has been lights out. Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson, AJ Minter and Will Smith are the heroes to this point. It seems like every time they have the ball in their hands they are getting big out and wiggling out of situations.
The Braves offense has relied on the usual suspects and brand new ones. Leading the way is Travis d’Arnaud, Adam Duvall, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley and Jorge Soler. Ozzie Albies and Eddie Rosario have been quiet but good teams pick each other up.
I still think the Astros get it done in 7 games. The Astros have the cool-headed aggression and talent to outscore the Braves by a ton of runs.
The Braves and Atlanta have been here before. They’ve blown big leads in games and series before. They do not want to see history repeat itself. If this goes to 7 games, the pressure will be too much for the Braves. They are also in Houston. If the Braves have any hopes of raising that championship trophy, they better put the Astros to bed TONIGHT!
What’s with the short hook?
Everyone is doing it so it must be cool. This postseason, more than ever, managers are pulling their starters early. Back in the day, your starter wasn’t just out there to start the game, he was trying to finish the game. Old Schoolers like Nolan Ryan think the “quality start” stat (6 innings and 3 or fewer ERs) is ridiculous. Now, it’s routine for starters to go 5 innings and hand it over to the bullpen or even have a bullpen game all together.
Loyal reader BMTEducator asked me a few weeks ago, “Just curious but since you’re a sports writer, why is a bullpen game better than a 5th starter?” Well, there’s a few reasons for that. The first reason is your #5 starters are not very good. If he gives up a bunch of runs early, the game will most certainly be out of reach. Stats and common sense show that starting pitchers are at a disadvantage the second time they see hitters and at an even larger disadvantage the third time they see hitters. If this is true for quality pitchers, imagine your worst starter?
Another reason is the manager can play the matchups better. I was in favor of Dave Roberts starting Cory Knebel in Game 5 of the NLDS and letting Julio Urias pitch the middle innings. He liked the matchups in that situation. Kevin Cash of the Rays did that a few years ago with Sergio Romo. The first 6 batters of the game were loaded with right handers. Romo is a slider guy and he is a terror on righty’s. He went two and his starter went after that. Why not? In a bullpen game you can see who is due and exploit weaknesses. There are righty/lefty matchups, using off-speed guys versus hitters who like to hit fastballs and using pitchers with past success.
Organizations are really good at specializing their pitchers now. In the old days, the guys who threw 95 were encouraged to take it down a notch so they could locate and go deep into games. Now-a-days, with so much premium on a good bullpen, some pitchers are encouraged to give it all they got for one inning and pass the baton to the next guy. Who cares about control and longevity when you’re throwing the upper 90’s with a nasty slider?
Quality starters such as Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Walker Buehler and Gerrit Cole will be a dying breed. The 5 and dive used to be frowned upon, now it might be the new norm with flame throwers coming out of the bullpen.
Contact Steve Urena at: