The Houston Astros will host the Atlanta Braves who knocked out the defending champs Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. The road to the biggest stage was not easy for the two teams as the Braves barely made the playoffs with just 88 wins to take home the NL East Pennant. The Houston Astros struggled at times in the regular season trailing the Oakland Athletics and were down 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
The Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros Look to Repeat History
The Atlanta Braves have long awaited this moment as they made the postseason thirteen times since the turn of the century. The Braves last made the World Series came in 1999 but were swept by the New York Yankees. The only time the Braves won was in 1995 in the last three decades.
As for the Houston Astros, they are once again in familiar territory as they had a controversial 2017 WS victory against the Dodgers. The organization has reached the WS for the third time in the last five years.
Due to the global pandemic and scheduling issues, both clubs have not had each other since 2017. Freddie Freeman will be swinging from the plate in the biggest stage for the first time with a group of young hitters that include Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and others who were on the 2017 roster are back for more.
Both of these organizations have some familiarity with each other as the Astros were once a part of the NL Central prior to the 2012 season. This is a matchup that dates back to six decades as both franchises squared off more than 700 times and five playoff meetings. The Astros were able to win both times when the two faced off in the 2004 and 2005 NLDS.
Manager Dusty Baker of the Astros won a title as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 but is in search of a WS victory as a manager. On the other side Manager, Brian Snitker was also a member of the 1981 Dodgers.
The Houston Astros Are the Favorites to Take Home the Title
The Braves looked like they weren’t going to the playoffs as they were behind the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies even post the All-Star Game. The team had to deal with a season-ending injury to star outfielder and MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. Through all the struggles, the newcomers, especially Eddie Rosario, won the 2021 NLCS MVP.
On the other hand, the Astros were able to win the NL West in a tough division. The Seattle Mariners won 90 games while the Oakland Athletics collapsed towards the end of the season winning 86 games.
The Astros were resilient as the ace Justin Verlander did not pitch in 2021 following Tommy John surgery and Zack Greinke struggled this year. Still, the Astros hitters displayed a potent lineup that couldn’t be matched by most clubs around the league.
Lance McCullers Jr. missed the ALCS after suffering an injury in the clincher against the White Sox, and if he cannot pitch, this will leave a dent in the rotation which is difficult to replace.
The Braves finished slightly below-average offensively with a 98 wRC+, which is ranked 12th in that category. The Braves bullpen may also be an issue if a starter cannot go deep as their xFIP as a unit was ranked 12th worst which marked the lowest among teams that qualified for the postseason.
Houston finished the regular season with a 115 wRC+, which was the best in baseball. The Astros also made some much-needed adjustments to their bullpen at the trade deadline by acquiring Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia.
After all this, it is difficult to count the Braves out as they defeated the defending champs in six games. However, the Astros are proving why they made the WS in three of the last five years. The team is still lethal despite all the negatives surrounding the team.