BY HAAKON MELAND, SPORTS STAFFER.
The Houston Astros are back in the World Series for the third time in the last five years. How did they get there? They steamrolled through the White Sox in the division series and then went down early vs the Red Sox but came back to win the American League Championship in six games. After losing Lance McCullers due to injury Astros starters Framber Valdez and rookie Luis Garcia stepped up and carries the Astros pitching during the ALCS. The ALCS MVP Yordan Alveraz terrorized Boston pitchers especially Chris Sale. Correa, Altuve, and Bregman also came up big in clutch spots like they have in past postseason runs.
The Atlanta Braves, America’s team, will make their first postseason appearance since 1999 when they lost to the Yankees in a four-game sweep. John Smoltz still has nightmares from that series and its very evident when he calls Yankee games on Fox. The Braves lost one of their star players in Ronald Acuna Jr to a torn ACL during the summer and also lost Marcell Ozuna due to a domestic violence incident. The Braves, who played in a weak NL East, were surprise buyers at the trade deadline picking up Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario to revamp their outfield. These players have played crucial roles in the Braves recent success. The Braves sent the Brewers home early in the ALDS and shocked the Dodgers beating them in 6 games. The 2020 MVP Freddie Freeman will finally get a chance at a ring after the Braves blew a 3-1 lead in the NLCS last year.
The Astros I believe are the better team on paper and have scoring runs at will this postseason. The Braves pitching has been carrying the team and they’ve gotten the big hits when they needed them. The question is when will the Braves magic run out. They lack the star power and the postseason experience. The core of the Astros team has been to five straight ALCS and been to the world series three times now in the last five years. Austin Riley had an MVP caliber regular season and has some big hits this postseason. He is the x-factor in this series for the Braves. I don’t believe Rosario will play at the same level he did in the NLCS. For the Braves to end the season on top they will need Austin Riley and Freddie Freeman to play at MVP levels while getting the timely hits from guys such as Albies and Pederson.
The Astros can score whenever they want to and have home field advantage in the matchup which will play a big role. The Astros play at a different level when they play at Minute Maid Park (bang bang). Their experience in the postseason will also play a big role. Their lineup is loaded with star power that does not shy from the big moment. Astros starting pitching will be the difference in this series. The Braves have not exactly lit up the scoreboard in October but have done enough to make it this far. The Astros pitching was able to shut down Boston and the red hot Kike Hernandez. Kyle Tucker is a name I expect to be overlooked in a loaded Astros lineup and someone who I think will do damage in this series. The put game 6 of the ALCS on ice with a three-run home run off Adam Ottavino in the 9th and I think he can be a potential WS MVP candidate.
My prediction: Astros in 5
My Postseason record: not good.