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MLB Playoff Preview: World Series Game 3

After a travel day, the Fall Classic will have a frontrunner again.

MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This World Series opened up with most spectators conflicted on who should be the favorite to win it all — the Astros were in some perspectives the slight favorite, but Atlanta has proven throughout this postseason that they’re up to the challenge of taking on favored opponents. Thus far we’ve gotten results that back up the divide: Atlanta swiped home field advantage away with a Game 1 victory in spite of losing Charlie Morton to injury early in the outing, and then Houston answered back with a relatively comfortable win of their own.

The Morton injury has been the biggest impact on the series to date, as his postseason is over with a fractured right fibula. That blow to Atlanta’s pitching depth is massive, and it will play a part in what we’ll see from the team in these next three games at their home ballpark. The bullpen saved the day then, but they’ll have to fill in innings for the remainder of the series somehow, and the options beyond Max Fried aren’t quite clear.

What’s on deck?

World Series Game 3

Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves

(Luis Garcia vs. Ian Anderson)

Time: 8:09 PM EST

Venue: Truist Park

TV: Fox

Anderson was the only other pitcher beyond Fried that Atlanta was willing to commit to as a starter for the Fall Classic, and were planning on doing so before the Morton injury occurred. Anderson was electric for the club in last year’s pandemic-shortened season, and followed that up with a solid 2021 campaign — in 24 starts, he pitched to a 3.58 ERA with 124 strikeouts in 128.1 innings. Atlanta has been cautious with him in the postseason, only allowing him to throw 12 innings across three starts, but he’s delivered when his name is called.

If Anderson is on a roll early in this game, Atlanta will surely be tempted to let his leash loosen a little more. They called up rookie pitcher Tucker Davidson to take Morton’s spot on the roster but it’s unclear if he will be used as a starter or reliever, and wound up using Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright out of the ‘pen in Game 2 — two pitchers who could have been options to start Games 4 or 5. Instead, they’ll probably have to stitch patches of those games together through the bullpen, and Anderson twirling a gem could go a long way to having all hands on deck for that task. On the other hand, if he gets into trouble early, it’s fair to wonder how willing Brian Snitker will be willing to call on a reliever with that workload in the back of his mind.

Luis Garcia was more than serviceable for Houston in the regular season, pitching to a 3.48 ERA in 30 appearances (28 starts) and racking up 167 strikeouts over 155.1 innings. The 24-year-old hasn’t had any luck in the postseason, however, allowing 10 runs in 9.1 innings across three starts. All of that damage came in his first two starts against Chicago and Boston, but his second look at the Red Sox turned into a solid 5.2 innings of shutout, one-hit ball. The Astros are hoping for more of the latter from Garcia, especially with their own ace Lance McCullers Jr. out for the World Series.

Game 3 is a crucial turning point for both sides — teams that go up 2-1 in the postseason go on to win the series over 70 percent of the time. For Atlanta, answering back after stumbling in Game 2 would set themselves up to survive the gauntlet that Games 4 and 5 appear poised to provide. For Houston, this is an opportunity to take back home field advantage and set themselves up to take control of the series if and when it goes back to their ballpark.