Saturday, September 23

Max Fried and three other struggling stars who will determine whether Atlanta or Houston win the 2021 World Series

ATLANTA – Atlanta baseball club failed to conclude the World Series in Atlanta, despite taking a quick 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of Game 5 and holding a 3-1 series lead .

Many Atlanta fans are experiencing mild stages of panic right now, remembering how those brilliant Braves teams of the 1990s always seemed to somehow find a way to lose, except for 1995, in October. And I think it’s safe to say that many sports fans remember a championship football game that had an epic meltdown.

So yeah, maybe Braves fans are skeptical, now that the series has returned to Houston. It’s hard to blame them.

Today, let’s take a look at four players who could play a huge role in how the rest of the World Series unfolds.

Max Fried, Atlanta starter

It’s been a minute since Max Fried has pitched as Max Fried, hasn’t it? This is a guy with a 2.84 ERA and a 3.26 FIP in his last 39 regular-season starts, and he allowed only two earned runs in his first two playoff starts, covering 12 innings. But his last two outings, against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 2 of the World Series, have not been great. And that’s putting it mildly. In those two starts, he allowed 15 hits and 11 runs in 9 2/3 innings and the Braves lost both games, in games that weren’t particularly close.

It could certainly be a fatigue problem. Not just for Fried, but for all starting pitchers. It has been a long season, after an exceptionally short season. Fried pitched 165 2/3 regular-season innings in 2019 and equaled that total, exactly, oddly, in 2021. But in between, he pitched just 79 2/3 (counting regular and postseason) in the pandemic-restricted 2020 season. Add up your postseason totals this month, and you’re up to 191 1/3 by 2021, which is a strong rally in what is still a young arm.

It will come to rest completely in Game 6, which is good. The first few entries have been a problem lately. Against the Dodgers, he gave up three runs in the second and another in the third. Against the Astros, he gave up one in the first and four in the second. Singles races aren’t great, of course, but they’re not the biggest problem.

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“Obviously, I’m not happy with that. The playoffs are a game of great momentum, “Fried said after his start in Game 2.” You have to do everything you can to keep the crooked number off the scoreboard. At the end of the day, they put up four runs in that inning. You need to do better next time, just throwing, getting out of it. “

If the Braves are going to finish with the World Series title, they’ll need Fried to avoid those lopsided numbers. Atlanta pitchers didn’t avoid them in Game 5; Houston scored two in the second, two in the third and three in the fifth.

Houston third baseman Alex Bregman

Houston’s third baseman double in the second inning was the classic Alex Bregman. When he’s right, he can spray impulse lines all over the field, and he broke this particular 3-1 pitch in the opposite direction in the space between center and right. When he’s right, he bounces back in the big moments, and this was fantastic: The Astros trailed 3-1 in the World Series and 4-0 in the game, and they had two runners on base with one out. This was exactly what Astros fans have been waiting to see from Bregman throughout the series.

“From the moment we scored those two runs, we said, okay, it’s time to go,” Carlos Correa said. “Let’s go. Let’s put together great at-bats. Let’s fight. Let’s go to battle. Eventually, we ended up scoring all those runs and we had a great game.”

Maybe this was the beginning of old Bregman at the plate. Not so fast. With runners in first and third innings in the third inning, he flew to end the inning. He was intentionally walked in the fifth. In the seventh, he approached a runner at second and jumped onto a center straight, a pitch he could normally make over the bleachers, when he’s right.

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After a groundout to open the ninth, Bregman’s World Series average is .111 with an OPS of .394. That second-inning double was just his third extra base all of the postseason, with 66 plate appearances. Baker dropped him from third in the lineup to No. 7. And no matter where he is hitting in the order in Game 6, the Astros need him to produce like a three-hole hitter.

Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies

Ozzie Albies is Atlanta’s tremendously talented second baseman coming off his second All-Star season; he had 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases during the regular season, to go with 106 RBIs and 103 runs scored. However, consistency hasn’t always been his thing, as evidenced by his .310 on-base percentage in 2021, a steep drop from his .352 mark in 2019. And he wasn’t very good at the plate in October.

He had a pair of hits in Game 1 against the Astros, both singles in the infield he beat, but he’s hitting just .077 since then, with five strikeouts and just one hit at 16 PA. He has not been competitive in several of the at-bats, chasing pitches out of the zone or swinging awkwardly on pitches in the strike zone where he was duped.

Simply put, Albies has to be better in Houston if Atlanta is to avoid letting a sizable lead in the World Series slip away. He’s the third hitter in the lineup, wedged between Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, so he’s seeing pitches. A little more selectivity could do wonders.

Luis Garcia, Houston starter

The rookie starts off with three days off, which isn’t ideal, but the Astros don’t have much of a choice. In an ideal world, Jose Urquidy, who was solid in his start to Game 2, would have started Game 6 for Houston, but was pressured for service in Game 5, the potential elimination game, when starter Framber Valdez missed early. . Urquidy only pitched 14 pitches in his only scoreless inning before being replaced by a pinch hitter: Marwin Gonzalez pitched a massive two-RBI single in the fifth, as Houston’s seventh batter to step to the plate in the inning, but is not. a reliever and recovering for a long job is a great question.

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“When you’re down 3-1, you have to do everything you can for your rotation. If a man is tired, it doesn’t really matter because his next step is home and, like, we weren’t ready to go home, “said manager Dusty Baker. “All the guys gutted him and gave us everything they had, including Urquidy. We thought Urquidy couldn’t; at the time, you didn’t want to trade careers with him. You wanted to close it to give yourself a chance to come back. “

It’s not that starting with a short break is easy for Garcia, which is why we’re talking about him now. He wasn’t good in his first two playoff starts – he allowed five earned runs in both and pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings. His second start against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series was outstanding; did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. Garcia allowed only one run in his only World Series start, but that was more a testament to his problem-solving skills than his ability. In 3 2/3 innings, Garcia allowed three hits and four walks.

With Monday’s travel day, Baker should have plenty of options in his bullpen, but if Garcia can do two things – avoid a crooked number early and get into the fifth inning – the Astros would be delighted.

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