The Braves return home to play a World Series game in Atlanta tonight for the first time since 1999, tied with the Houston Astros at one game apiece. That’s all Braves fans could have asked for, especially considering how the first two games went down with Charlie Morton and Max Fried. Besides the obvious need to take two out of three at Truist Park, here are three keys to success for the Braves to take control of the series in front of the home fans.
After losing Charlie Morton for the rest of the series due to fracturing his leg, it became evident that the Braves would need someone in their bullpen to step up and eat innings later in the series. The team faces the possibility of two bullpen games in a row in Games 4 and 5; having someone cover multiple innings in one of those games could be huge in preserving the top guys for the whole series.
Insert Kyle Wright, who came into Game 2 and walked off the mound having struck out the side in his only inning. Suppose Wright can show anything close to that kind of effectiveness whenever he enters in Game 4 or 5 (and I expect him to see the field early in one of those games), then the Braves will be set up to not only take one of those bullpen games but save the best arms for any game that follows. Pretty much all of this could be said for Tucker Davidson as well, but I expect Wright to see the field before Davidson does.
Dansby and Ozzie heating up
The Braves sorely need their middle infielders to heat up at the plate. Ozzie Albies has gotten on base throughout the playoffs, but that has resulted in many infield singles and soft hits into the outfield. He has no homers all postseason, and out of his 14 hits, only three were for extra bases. The lineup is more dangerous when he is hitting balls out of the park and into the gaps. Dansby Swanson has been much of the same story, as he has hit safely in the last seven games but with no extra-base hits. He also only has one RBI in the entire postseason, which doesn’t speak well to timely hitting or the classic clutch factor we’re used to seeing from him. For the Braves to take the lead in the series, they need these two guys to start hitting for more power.
The Astros are incredible at hitting and scoring with two outs. They did it against the White Sox, Red Sox, and again against Max Fried and Dylan Lee in Game 2. They have scored 46 two-out runs this postseason, which is second all-time behind last years’ Dodgers team. That is 46 out of 75 total runs this postseason, a whopping 61%. The Astros are already the best team in the MLB at making contact and putting the ball in play, and that has been even better when down to their last out in an inning throughout the postseason. Braves pitchers must find a way to close out innings once they get to two outs. Not saying this hasn’t been happening already (the Astros only took advantage in the second inning of Game 2). Still, Atlanta’s effectiveness with two outs will continue to be a difference-maker in the next three games at home.