ATLANTA – The Astros have the best offense in baseball. They reached base more frequently than any other club this season; they ranked last in strikeout rate and top in offensive WAR. There were only four games all season in which they had two hits or less. If you want to try to outmaneuver them rather than dominate them, good luck, as they alternate right-handed and left-handed for the top seven hitters in the lineup; an easy confrontation is not played here. Calming these hitters is taking down one of the most fearsome, versatile and balanced groups in baseball.
But the Braves did just that in Game 3. On a rainy Friday night in Atlanta, they didn’t allow a hit until the eighth inning and only twice allowed a player to move past first base. Their 2-0 win was an unusual shutout for the Astros. It was also a demonstration of just how dazzling this pitching staff can be in their prime and, more importantly, a decisive win to put them ahead in the series by one game.
The most scrutinized decision of the night was Atlanta manager Brian Snitker’s decision to remove starter Ian Anderson with a no-hitter after the fifth inning. But whatever that choice meant for the story, the aesthetic, or the narrative quality, it only meant one thing to the Astros: They had to prepare for a parade of formidable bullpen arms. The Braves’ top relievers rested after a day of travel that followed without seeing the field in Game 2, and Snitker was prepared to use them. everybody from them. Houston’s night wasn’t any easier when Anderson walked away with the no-hitter intact. It got harder. That’s exactly why Atlanta chose to do it.
“We didn’t breathe a sigh of relief,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of seeing Anderson get thrown. “It’s no secret they have a good bullpen.”
There were several layers to the decision to retire Anderson. Although he hadn’t allowed a hit, his command had been spotty all night, and he had given up three walks and one BPH. He had struggled to get out several times after falling behind in the count. It was all enough to make his manager a little anxious. (“It has a really good quality to limit damage when it’s not very sharp,” said Snitker, a compliment wrapped in soft criticism.) Add that Anderson was about to see the top of Houston’s lineup for the third time, to say nothing of the fact that the goal was to win rather than see a no-hitter, and Snitker felt his decision was clear.
But the same inconsistency that made Atlanta’s coaching staff nervous about the possibility of an impending mistake had frustrated Houston’s hitters. They just couldn’t get a consistent reading on him.
“He was indeed wild. I mean, he had a 1-to-1 ratio of balls to strikes, and our guys were never able to focus on strikes, “Baker said. “When a guy is in the zone, out of the zone, it’s hard to focus on him.”
The Astros struggled to work with anything through the night. Their hitters seemed almost uniformly off, even in areas that are generally the team’s strengths. For example, Anderson’s best secondary pitch is the switch, and Houston is better at hitting switches than any other team in baseball. (He had a .325 weighted base average against pitching this year compared to a league average of .292.) However, instead of forcing Anderson to lean a little more in his curve tonight to avoid giving them too many good views on the switch, they were unable to do anything with the pitch, and he actually ended up pitching his switch. plus than you usually do.
“He’s definitely hard to square off,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He has three pitches that are good, and he throws them over the edges. You have to be selective … we didn’t do a good enough job to square up what we might have had tonight. “
And Houston had no more room to breathe after Anderson’s departure. Braves relievers AJ Minter, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith combined to allow just three runners in the last four innings, with only one of them representing a well-hit ball. (The other two were a single bloop and a hit-by-pitch.) It’s true that Atlanta still has bullpen games scheduled for the next two days. But “we’ll take care of tomorrow tomorrow,” Snitker said, and by using his best relievers after a good start from his starter, he won today.
The Braves takeout? “My pitching staff is full of studs,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “They were just running pitches.”
And for the Astros? You give them all the credit tonight. They threw the tail, ”Bregman said. “I think you just rinse it off and move on.”
More World Series coverage:
• Dusty Baker’s time is now
• Four hired jockeys lead the charge for the Atlanta championship
• José Altuve breaks his losing streak with the help of a playoff legend
• Why does MLB still allow synchronized and team-sanctioned racism?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.