There has been a lot of emphasis on scoring first this postseason, and for good reason; the teams to score first are 26–7 so far in the playoffs.
However, what’s interesting is how often we’ve seen teams score early. In 26 of the 33 playoff games this year, at least one of the teams has scored in the first or second inning. The team that made it first in those games is 20–6.
But even beyond the postseason add-on, the first two innings could tell you all about how tonight’s game will play out. I’ve written the last two bulletins on how the Astros have the edge in the World Series because their pitching is in better shape and their hitters are so good at adjusting the more often they see the same pitchers in a series. These two leads will be even more pronounced if they score early against Ian Anderson, one of Atlanta’s two remaining true starters after Charlie Morton’s injury in Game 1. If Houston gets an early lead, and manager Brian Snitker has to close … Hitting early for Anderson or relieving him in the middle of the inning, Atlanta’s top relievers could be overextended before the team gets to its bullpen game tomorrow night and possibly Sunday night as well.
The flip side of this is also true. If Atlanta scores first in those first two innings, Snitker might be more willing to ride Anderson a bit more, knowing he will have to rely on the bullpen trio of Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter and Luke Jackson, as well as Kyle Wright. , Drew Smyly and Tucker Davidson, all three of whom could be used as potential starters or massive players in Games 4 and 5. Another reason for Atlanta to score early has nothing to do with how well Anderson throws; the game is at Truist Park, so there is no designated hitter. If he gets into the third or fourth inning and this is a no-score or low-score game, Snitker could be forced to pinch for Anderson if there are runners in scoring position. If that’s the case, whether or not the pinch-hitter drives the running backs, Atlanta would have to turn to its relievers sooner than it wants.
If you want to completely ignore the Atlanta pitching situation, one thing to focus on during the first two innings is Houston starter Luis Garcia’s fastball. He injured his knee in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series and left the game in the second inning, prompting pitching coach Brent Strom to change the way Garcia stands on the pitching plate. The adjustment was meant to take pressure off his knee, but this also increased the speed of his fastball. In the regular season, his four-seam average was 93.3 mph; In ALDS Game 6, he peaked at 97.8 mph and averaged 96.
Garcia’s speed could make the difference in tonight’s game. This season, Atlanta hitters hit .506 against four-seam pitchers from right-handed pitchers, good for fourth-best in the majors. But their production was drastically reduced against right-handed pitchers whose four seams had a speed of at least 95 mph. Just check this out.
ATL vs. RHP four-seam
This will be the key to the game. If Garcia comes out shooting 96-98, Atlanta’s hitters will have a hard time scoring. Except there’s no guarantee he’s going to be the same speed tonight as he was in Game 6. It’s hard to make mechanical changes at any time, but that’s especially true at the end of the season. Will Garcia revert to his old habit of pointing the ball of his foot slightly toward home plate, causing him to put more pressure on his knee and thus limiting his speed? If he does, Atlanta could feast on his diminished fastball and provide an early cushion for his pitching staff.
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1. THE OPENER
“The Braves know that their starter for Game 3 of the World Series will be Ian Anderson. After that … well, it’s complicated. “
So begins Emma Baccellieri’s excellent analysis of the Atlanta pitchers’ enigma for the remainder of the World Series. She explains how the loss of Charlie Morton leaves the team with few options to replace him and with questions about how the hell he can cover innings and contain Houston’s deep lineup.
Read Emma’s full story here.
If you didn’t get a chance to read Stephanie Apstein’s daily cover story about the tomahawk slice yesterday, I encourage you to do so before Game 3 tonight at Truist Park.
Why does MLB still allow synchronized, team-sanctioned racism in Atlanta? by Stephanie Apstein
During Games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series, a television audience from across the country will see a mostly white crowd mocking a town that their ancestors tried to erase.
Need to brush up on what happened in Game 2 on Wednesday before tonight’s game? We have you covered.
From one Mr. October to another: José Altuve breaks his depression with the help of a playoff legend by Tom Verducci
Houston’s victory in Game 2 was aided by some advice from Yankees icon Reggie Jackson to his star second baseman.
Braves’ big mistake puts game 2 out of reach by Stephanie Apstein
Houston tied the World Series with some help from a rare and costly mistake by Atlanta’s side defense.
Miss Tom’s brilliant Dusty Baker profile from Tuesday? Here you have!
Dusty Baker’s time is now Tom Verducci
His management is defined by having won more games without winning the World Series than anyone in history. His story is about more than just what he lacks.
3. IT IS WORTH TAKING INTO ACCOUNT
It will be interesting to see how each team handles not having a designated hitter this weekend. Houston’s Yordan Alvarez is almost certain to start left field, despite his defensive limitations.
What you really have to consider is which of Atlanta’s four outfielders is left out of the starting lineup for the next three games. Before Jorge Soler tested positive for COVID-19 before NLDS Game 4, Joc Pederson was used off the bench, even against right-handed starters. By the time Soler returned, prior to Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, Joctober was in full swing and Soler was back in as a pinch hitter. Because of the designated hitter, Brian Snitker started all four in the first two games of the World Series: Eddie Rosario in left field, Adam Duvall in center, Pederson in right, Soler in designated hitter. Now you have a decision to make.
At least for Game 3 tonight, this is what Snitker decided: Rosario, Duvall and Soler, left to right, with Pederson as the stranger. This makes sense, considering Pederson has calmed down the last five games (2 of 19, 7 Ks). Plus, he’s comfortable getting off the bank. He was 3-for-3 with two homers as a pinch hitter in the NLDS.
4. WHAT TO WATCH OUT of Will Laws
The Braves, who have yet to lose at home this postseason, will take over as host in Game 3 tonight (8 pm ET, Fox). Atlanta’s Ian Anderson and Houston’s Luis Garcia will combine for the first rookie World Series meeting since Game 1 in 2006 (Detroit’s Justin Verlander vs. St. Louis’s Anthony Reyes), and only the eighth of all time, according to Sarah Langs of MLB.com. .
Garcia didn’t last longer than the fourth inning in either of his first two starts in these playoffs, allowing five runs in both, but he turned in 5 ⅔ shutout innings and one hit against the Red Sox in the deciding ALCS game. In between, Astros coach Brent Strom instituted a change to Garcia’s rope, keeping the 24-year-old’s sole foot directly parallel to the rubber to minimize strain on his barking knee. Thus, Garcia’s fastball hit 97 mph on the radar eight times in its most recent start after hitting just once throughout the regular season, though it happened less frequently as the night wore on. If the young right-hander with a five-pitch mix can use the mechanical adjustment to keep his speed up and his knee healthy, Houston’s rotation, his most glaring potential weakness heading into this series, will have turned into an advantage.
5. THE CLOSER by Emma Baccellieri
With the potential for the universal designated hitter to become a reality when the collective bargaining agreement expires in December, the next three games could be the last played in which pitchers must hit. And the occasion does not escape them.
“It’s definitely going to be very special that these are the last pitchers to hit in baseball,” Atlanta Game 3 starter Ian Anderson said yesterday. The 23-year-old had two hits this year, a single and a double, for a .054 average. But even if your ABs end in a punch, as they often do, you will have a reason to savor them.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.