As the World Series makes its way back to Atlanta for the first since 1999, the Braves are locked up at a game a piece with the Houston Astros.

So how did we get here?

Game 1

Game 1 of the World Series saw former Astros World Series Champion RHP Charlie Morton get the start for the Braves against his former team. As for the Astros, it was Framber Valdez getting the baseball.

History was made in Houston on this night, as Jorge Soler led the game off with a rocket into the Crawford Boxes to become the first player in World Series history to lead the game off with a homer. Did I mention he missed the majority of the NLCS after testing positive for Covid-19? Right when you think you’ve seen it all, you are proved horribly wrong.

The Braves would add another run in the inning on an RBI double by Austin Riley.

The Astros would load the bases off of Charlie Morton in the Bottom of the 1st, but they were unable to push any runs across. The Braves tacked on another in the Top of the 2nd after Jorge Soler reached on a fielder’s choice.

Everything looked like it was going Atlanta’s way as they held a 5-0 lead going into the Bottom of the 3rd after a two run HR by Adam Duvall.

But just as quickly as baseball can giveth, baseball can taketh away.

After a strike out against José Altuve, Morton grimaced as he finished his follow through. Atlanta’s training staff came out, and just like that, Morton left the game. There was a dissection the play and trying to determine what possibly could have happened to the foot he uses to push off the mound. Usually for an injury on a pitch like that, it would be the leg you land on. Little did we know that Morton had broken his fibula on a grounder back in the Bottom of the 2nd, threw 16 more pitches, and struck out two hitters before he finally couldn’t go any longer. 

This has the potential to be remembered decades from now in the way that we talk about Kirk Gibson’s walk-off HR, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, and the Michael Jordan “bad pizza” game. It was a superhuman effort to battle the way that Morton did. Morton apologized to teammates after the game for coming out early and forcing the bullpen to get ready quickly. We think that they accepted his apology. 

For the Braves, their bullpen picked up right where Morton left off. A.J. Minter threw a career high 43 pitches to get the Braves to the back of their bullpen. Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith did the rest, allowing only three hits over four innings.

The Astros were never really able to get the bats going in this first game. Chas McCormick reached on a fielder’s choice to score a run in his first World Series game, and Carlos Correa would drive in a run on a groundout as well. Atlanta would tack on one more run on a sacrifice fly by Freddie Freeman to make it a 6-2 lead, and that was all she wrote in this one. Atlanta steals back home field advantage and takes a 1-0 series lead.

Game 2

The next night, the Braves sent out Max Fried to try and take a 2-0 series lead back to Atlanta. José Urquidy and the Astros had other things in mind.

Houston needed something to wake their bats up after Alex Bregman, José Altuve, and Carlos Correa went 0-12 in Game 1. While it wasn’t a hit, Bregman got the Astros out to an early lead with a sac fly to drive in Altuve. Travis d’Arnaud responded with a solo HR in the Top of the 2nd to tie it up. But Houston was ready to return to their form.

Noted anti-analytic announcer, Alex Rodriguez, (who hit 696 HR’s in his career, mind you) had a field day with the Bottom of the 2nd for the Astros. Single, single, single, single, single. That sounds like the writer of this article every Valentine’s Day. Houston ripped five singles in the span of six batters to tack on four runs in the inning. Kyle Tucker, then Yuli Gurriel, then Jose Siri, then Martín Maldonado, then Michael Brantley. Just keep the train moving, and good things will happen. 

This game had a very similar feel as in Game 1, just in reverse colors. That 5-1 lead felt insurmountable. The Braves were simply just not having good at bats against Urquidy and Dusty Baker knew that. Five strong innings with only two runs allowed was the line for Urquidy. The bullpen took it from there and was sensational. Christian Javier, Phil Maton, Ryan Pressly, and Kendall Graveman followed the script perfectly, and allowed only one hit over the course of four innings.

Once again, two very similarly played out games, with each team on each side.

So now what?

Let’s take a look at some of the main storylines heading into Game 3:

Rotation Depth:

This is an extremely large problem for both teams in this series right now. The one main advantage the Braves had over the Astros was length in their rotation. With Charlie Morton now out for the series, that is no longer the case. Max Fried has let up 11 runs over his last two starts, and the Astros have the best hitting team in the league against left handed pitchers. Fried will make one more start in a pivotal game in this series, and that may be the difference.

The Astros starting pitcher in Game 3, Luis Garcia, has a 9.64 ERA in the postseason. Ian Anderson on the other hand, has a 2.25 ERA. Houston will need a performance from their bullpen like in Game 2 to win this one, and they need to get to Anderson early before it’s too late.

Who’s Hot?

In our World Series Preview, we mentioned how Travis d’Arnaud did not necessarily need to swing that bat too well because the lineup around him would do the rest. Clearly, he was not listening. d’Arnaud is 3/8 in the series, with a HR in Game 2. The Braves as a whole have been spreading the wealth throughout their lineup, so there really are no other big standouts. Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall have also homered, but not much outside of that.

For the Astros, the hit machine known as Michael Brantley has been locked in as he is 5/9 with two doubles. He can hit anyone at any time, and he’s a key piece in that order. The Astros have plenty of power on the team, which has yet to really show itself in this series. When they do get going, you better believe that Brantley will be on base for them.

Who’s Not?

This has been an odd series so far in the fact that a lot of players are doing good, but not a lot of players are doing great. The production has been spread out very well in the Atlanta lineup so far, but for the sake of content, we’ll pick on Joc Pederson here. Pederson is 1/8 with 3 K’s in the series, and it will be interesting to see what Braves manager Brian Snitker does with their lineup in Game 3. With no DH anymore, Snitker will have to choose 3/4 of Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler. With the right handed Luis Garcia on the mound for Houston, one would think Pederson will stay in regardless.

Alex Bregman has started off the series on the wrong note, as he is 0/7 with 3 K’s. Bregman has solidified himself as a great postseason performer, but that has not shown up so far this series. Of course, Bregman is not going to be taken out of the lineup, but Dusty Baker could shift around the lineup if need be. That simply feels like over-managing at this point, but it is something to keep an eye out for as this series unfolds.