World Series 2021: Astros vs Braves Game 5, launch predictions | Launderer report
David J. Phillip / Associated press
The Houston Astros are down 3-1 to Atlanta in the World Series, but on paper they still have an advantage in the pitching showdown before Game 5.
Houston will send Framber Valdez back to the mound for his second start of the series, while Atlanta must reenact a second straight game in the bullpen.
Atlanta didn’t announce a start or opening Sunday morning, but the likely option is Drew Smyly, Jesse Chavez or Tucker Davidson.
Brian Snitker got his initial pitcher decision wrong in Game 4, as Dylan Lee lasted four batters before Kyle Wright took over. Wright came out of the jam in the first inning and then pitched 4.2 solid innings to close the gap with the high leverage Atlanta relievers.
Atlanta’s top relievers have had some very stressful innings in each of the last two games, and they might be a little tired heading into Game 5.
For Houston, the launch strategy is simple: Valdez must produce a strong start similar to his second appearance in the ALCS. If that happens, the Astros must hope their bats come alive to produce more than a point or two lead before their top relievers take over.
For the second game in a row, Houston has the advantage of knowing exactly what their pitching strategy will be. On Saturday, the Astros got four solid innings from Zack Greinke before returning the ball to the bullpen.
Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton and Ryan Pressly produced strong outings in the reliever run, but Brooks Raley and Cristian Javier were scored for all three Atlanta runs. Javier, who was one of Houston’s top relievers in the playoffs, conceded back-to-back homers to Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler in the seventh inning.
Houston can cut its pen production to three or four innings if Valdez bounces the same way the ALCS does. He pitched eight magnificent innings at Fenway Park in Game 5 of the ALCS to complete the series’ change of momentum. His victory allowed Houston to come home with just one win to clinch a World Series berth.
Valdez lasted two innings in Game 1, as he conceded five earned runs on eight hits. He allowed three runs on six hits in Game 1 of the ALCS. Even with Valdez throwing five solid innings, Dusty Baker should be in good shape to manage his field in the later stages of Game 5.
Pressly was the only Houston reliever to pitch more than 20 shots in Game 4. He might not be available for Sunday’s game because he pitched 33 shots in 1.2 inning of work. Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia will be fresh, as will Jake Odorizzi in case the Astros need to make it to the paddock early.
As for Atlanta, they must navigate another tricky enclosure game with more pitchers maxed out in Game 5. Snitker’s call to open Game 4 with Lee backfired, but he rectified that. bad decision by putting Wright as the first reliever. Wright produced a 4.2 innings gem before Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith took over.
Matzek, Jackson and Smith were used in almost every playoff game. Expect them to take over once the match reaches the seventh inning. Before that, Houston has a point scoring chance against some of Atlanta’s long relievers including Chavez and Smyly.
Snitker likely won’t return to a younger pitcher to open after Saturday’s nightmare begins, which likely excludes Davidson from the opener position. He could pitch an inning at some point.
Chavez was used as Atlanta’s first game for NLCS Game 4. He pitched a scoreless inning to lead that game, but he hasn’t pitched since Game 2 of the World Series.
Smyly followed Chavez with 3.1 innings of work in Game 4 of the NLCS. He conceded two earned runs on two hits on that outing. He also gave up an earned run in his working inning in Game 2 of the World Series.
Since Chavez and Smyly are fresh, Atlanta is expected to join them as the first two pitchers for Game 5. Atlanta is in this tough spot because Game 1 starter Charlie Morton broke his leg in Game 1 of the fall classic.
If Atlanta gets four or five innings from Chavez and Smyly, he can go to AJ Minter for multiple innings, like he did in Game 1, or he can stack Minter, Martin, and Davidson in a certain combination to come in seventh. .
Houston 4, Atlanta 2
Houston’s best opportunity in the series to take an early lead comes in Game 5.
Chavez and Smyly haven’t been perfect, but Atlanta needs to be part of the duo to some extent as they are the two freshest long relievers on the roster.
Houston got to Lee early in Game 4, but he couldn’t produce more than a run once Wright hit the rubber.
Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley are responsible for 10 of the team’s 27 World Series hits. If they reach base early, they can set up Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez for potential scoring play.
Bregman is 1 for 14 in the series and Alvarez is 1 for 11. Houston needs a big hit from one of those hitters to get the lead early on.
Otherwise, the pressure will be on Carlos Correa or Kyle Tucker to deliver a big blow. Tucker is 5-for-15, but he doesn’t have an RBI in the World Series.
Baker might consider moving Tucker in order to stack his best hitters, but that seems unlikely due to his playoff lineups.
If Bregman, Alvarez or Correa pull off a big shot and then put Tucker in place with multiple runners on base, the Astros have a chance to give Valdez a comfortable lead to work with.
If Valdez bounces back like he did in the ALCS, Houston should have the lead for the first five innings, and he could ride his playoff ace in a scenario where he needs three innings of his top relievers to send the series back to Houston.