I think there’s only one thing to talk about today, and that’s the World Series. Game 1 between Atlanta and Houston comes our way tonight. So today, what are some of the top storylines to follow over the next 4-7 games? And who wins?
Game one starts tonight at 8:09 on FOX with Charlie Morton taking the mound for Atlanta in Houston while Framber Valdez gets the start for the Astros.
Win it for Dusty?
I think the best storyline to watch over this World Series is whether Dusty Baker can finally win a World Series. He’s been in this game for a long time. He was on deck when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. He’s led the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, and Astros to playoff berths. Everywhere he goes, he makes the team better.
But he hasn’t won the big one yet. And it’s weighed down what should be a sterling reputation.
Now, I’m rooting for Dusty to finish the job. Yes, this is an Astros team still recovering from their cheating scandal. But Dusty was brought in to clean up the organization’s reputation after that fiasco, and he’s done it. Just four players from the 2017 Astros are left. Will I, or most people, be happy to see some of those players rewarded? No. But we should all be happy to see Dusty Baker rewarded.
The last DH World Series
For what might be the last time, the designated hitter will be a major storyline in the World Series. Next season we’ll likely have a universal DH. The advantage might go the National League team’s way.
The Astros’ best hitter these playoffs has been their designated hitter, Yordan Álvarez. He’s hitting .441 but Álvarez doesn’t have a natural position on the field. He’ll probably play left field when the series shifts to Atlanta, but that means that the Astros would have to consider removing Michael Brantley or Preston Tucker from the lineup unless they’re willing to completely murder their defense by playing Tucker in center field.
On the other side of the field, Atlanta might benefit by gaining the DH in Houston. Jorge Soler missed the NLCS after a positive COVID test, but he’s back now, giving Atlant four good outfielders -- Soler, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson. And they’ll get to play them all when they have the DH.
Houston’s pitching woes
The big problem for the Astros is their starting pitching. They lost ace Lance McCullers to injury before the ALCS. They’re down to just one reliable starter, Framber Valdez. None of the rest of their probable starters -- Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, or Zack Greinke -- can be relied upon.
That means that the Houston bullpen will have to work overtime if the Astros want to win this series. Lucky for them, long man Cristian Javier was fantastic during the ALCS and probably saved that series for Houston.
In the Atlanta dugout, it’s the opposite story. Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Ian Anderson are all good starters that will produce solid starts and help limit the use of the weaker half of the Atlanta bullpen. Which is good because that half of the bullpen will see a lot of work on the fourth day when Atlanta will probably go with a bullpen game. Look for Drew Smyly to get the bulk work in that game.
Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta lineup
Freddie Freeman is the reigning National League MVP. He’s been one of the best players in the game for a long time, but he’s still somehow underrated. That might change during this series. Freeman has a chance to be the star for Atlanta, especially if they win the series.
He won’t be alone. This lineup is deep with talented players. Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Alex Riley round out a strong infield. And I detailed last week the great job Atlanta did rebuilding its outfield.
The Houston lineup is deep, too. I think on paper you might be tempted to say the Astros lineup is better. But I trust this Atlanta lineup more right now.
I’ve picked against Atlanta all postseason. They’ve been the worst team going into their matchups with the Brewers and the Dodgers, but their timely hitting and pitching won them more games.
On the other hand, I’ve correctly picked the Astros to win each of their series. They’ve managed to outslug their opponents all October.
I think this series will come down to the pitching. For Atlanta, their rotation’s ability to keep the game away from their worst bullpen pitchers before they get to the dominant back end of Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter, Luke Jackson, and Will Smith.
Houston needs to get something out of their rotation. If Atlanta jumps out to the lead off of Greinke and Garcia, that will put Houston in a tough spot. The Astros came back against Boston in game 4 to turn the ALCS around. This Atlanta bullpen is much better than what the Red Sox ran out there.
In the end, I think the Atlanta pitching will make the difference in this series. But it should be a good one:
Atlanta in 6