HOUSTON – The Braves are leaving Texas happy to have won one of two road games, which is always the goal of any playoff team without home advantage going into the series. And the Astros are happy to leave Texas because, after the debacle of Game 1, they responded with a resounding 7-2 victory in Game 2.
“I would say today is a must win,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. “We didn’t want to go to Atlanta at two. So we left everything we had there tonight. Obviously, a very important victory to tie the series to move on ”.
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Both teams also leave Houston knowing what needs to happen in Atlanta for them to take control of the series. However, making that happen will not be easy. Let’s take a look at one player from each team who could hold the key to World Series success in Georgia.
Did Bregman bounce back?
Alex Bregman is 0-for-7 in the World Series and has just three hits in his last 22 at-bats. In Game 1, when No. 2 hitter Michael Brantley hit 3 of 4, No. 3 hitter Bregman went 0 of 4. In Game 2, when the Astros scored seven runs, Bregman was 0 of 3 with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Bregman is too good of a hitter to remain a consistent out at third place in the Astros’ lineup.
“Bregman can hit, and he thinks he can hit, and he will,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said before Game 2. “So it’s a matter of staying confident. That’s number one.”
However, the truth is that it’s been a while since Bregman has always been a dominant force in Houston’s lineup. In 2018, he finished fifth in the race for the AL Most Valuable Player. In 2019, he was runner-up to Mike Trout, with 13 of 30 votes for first place. His combined OPS + for those two seasons was 157.
Their combined OPS for 2020 and 2021 was just 114, a big drop. There are circumstances, of course. The 2020 season was strange for many reasons, with Bregman playing just 42 of the team’s 60 games, missing time with a hamstring injury. And his 2021 season was shortened too, with hamstring and quadriceps problems.
“Missed what, 60 games?” Baker said. “So there are 60 repetition parties that the opposition has over him. You’re catching up all the time, all year long. That is very hard. When will you catch up? I mean, you’ve invested time. He has gone to work. The law of the average is also on his side, big time. “
Bregman returned from IL in late August and produced a .760 OPS in 32 games. There were moments, like back-to-back games with a home run in late September, or the two games of four RBIs that he had after his return.
But if the Astros are going to beat the Braves in this seven-game series, they’ll need the Bregman of yesteryear at that third spot in the lineup, not what they’ve seen in the first two games.
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The Wright factor
With staff leader Charlie Morton with his leg broken, it’s entirely plausible to think that the Braves could have just one pitcher in more than three innings in the next three games in Atlanta. Ian Anderson is the scheduled starter for Game 3, and the club would love for him to make it to at least halfway through that game.
But Games 4 and 5 look like bullpen games, unless the club decides to bring in Max Fried, who threw 86 pitches in Game 2, with a short break in Game 5.
The wild card in that mix? Kyle Wright, a 26-year-old who has appeared in four major league seasons, but only added 70 innings in MLB, including just 6 1/3 in 2021. That doesn’t exactly sound like a potential pitching staff savior in the role, but the Braves are excited about what he could bring in future games.
Wright had a 3.05 ERA in 24 Triple-A starts, and Atlanta manager Snitker signed him for the eighth inning in Game 2 to give him a glimpse of World Series action in a less pressure environment. All he did was strike out all three batters he faced, throwing 10 strikes on 12 pitches.
“It was very encouraging to see Kyle tonight,” Snitker said, “to just walk in there for that entry and get him out and experience this atmosphere because he could play a big role in the future. I think he threw the ball very well. “
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Let’s not pretend that the final draw of a game with a five-run gap is the same kind of pressure as when you are asked to pitch three or four innings in a close game. But any kind of confidence builder for a man in your situation is huge.
“He did a tremendous job,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “I was locating. His plumb bob was moving a lot. His curve was moving a lot. He did a tremendous job. When I caught him in a rehab game to me, he looked exactly the same as that day. It was fun working with him, and it was great to see him succeed today, especially in the World Series. “
Will Wright start Game 4? Maybe Game 5? Or does Atlanta go with a starter in both games, only to bring in Wright as the massive pitcher?
What about rookie Tucker Davidson? He replaced Morton on the list. Like Wright, he has limited MLB experience in 2021, a 3.60 ERA in four starts in the first half of the season, and spent time on the injury shelf this year. He made a three-inning rehab outing in early October with the Triple-A club, and has been working there. He said Wednesday afternoon that he has stretched enough to throw up to 80 pitches if necessary.
“I was very impressed with Tucker when he got his first call up this year,” Snitker said. “The timing didn’t seem to matter to him.”
That sounds important, heading into some big games in Atlanta’s season.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.