The Braves entered their first home on Friday game with the series tied. However, the pressure was on to take Game 3 knowing that after Ian Anderson, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the next true starter to take the ball for Atlanta would be Max Fried in a possible Game 6.
Anderson delivered with five innings of no-hit ball — though a couple of walks and the stress of each pitch forced Snitker to still use his ‘pen for four innings to close out the game. That was a significant factor heading into Game 4, where the Braves were forced to bullpen their way through nine innings.
What happened last night?
World Series Game 4
(Braves lead series 3-1)
The Braves have gone with basically a three-man rotation for the entirety of the postseason. That fourth spot under extreme circumstances was occupied by Charlie Morton on short rest, but with Morton out for the remainder of the series, Snitker went with a bullpen game.
The inexperienced Dylan Lee was sent out to open the game, while Dusty Baker called the number of Zack Greinke for the second time as the starter in this postseason; Greinke was pulled before the second inning the last time out.
Lee struggled right off the bat and left with the bases loaded in the first and only one out, setting Houston up with a golden opportunity to blow the gates open immediately. Kyle Wright came in and limited the damage to a single run, however, and managed to provide a few more innings of length while only surrendering one other run to his name.
Greinke, who became the first pitcher since Babe Ruth to not bat ninth in a World Series game, managed to give Houston everything he had — four scoreless frames, and he even managed a single in his first plate appearance.
The Astros led 2-1 when Cristian Javier entered in the seventh and gave up back-to-back home runs to Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler. The second bomb actually had a catch probability of 70 percent, just clearing the short wall in left, but designated hitter Yordan Alvarez was in left field with the National League rules requiring him to play the field in order to bat. If you’re ready to criticize Baker for playing Alvarez in the outfield, keep in mind that Michael Brantley has lived in the mid-10’s percentile when it comes to OAA — Houston’s options for that particular play weren’t the greatest.
Snitker had no reservations about using his high leverage arms on back-to-back days with the prospect of going up 3-1, and the Braves ‘pen shut down the Astros offense. On 46 occasions, a team has gone up 3-1 in the World Series — in 40 out of those 46 times, that team has won the World Series. Houston will need to pull off something extraordinary to take the ‘21 World Series against a team all too familiar with 3-1 leads.
What’s on deck?
World Series Game 5
Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves
(Pitching Matchup: Framber Valdez vs TBD)
Time: 8:15 PM Eastern Time Zone
Venue: Truist Park
Framber Valdez gets a second crack at the Braves lineup, this time without the benefit of the DH for the NL representatives. In Game 1, it was Soler who occupied that role and punished Valdez right off the bat with a leadoff bomb. Curiously enough, it was the second time that the Astros surrendered a leadoff home run to the first batter the team faced in the World Series.
This could have been the first pitching matchup to repeat itself in the series, but the Braves lost Morton in Game 1 to a broken leg — Snitker will have to bullpen a second game in a row, repeating the Game 4 scenario.
Valdez did give up five earned runs in only a couple of innings pitched, however he also was brilliant the last night he was on the road — in Boston with the series tied at two apiece, the Astros southpaw threw eight innings of one-run ball. Whether that version of Valdez shows up or he repeats his World Series performance could determine Houston’s fate on the brink of elimination.