The goal of teams hosting the first couple of games of the World Series is pretty simple. Win those two games and hold serve on home-field advantage. But when the home team fumbles the first game as the Astros did in the opener on Tuesday night, the goal morphs into an almost must win in the second game.
Mission accomplished for the Astros in the second game as they got up early and really did not allow the Braves to have much of a comeback shot along the way in a 7-2 win.
The Astros were in this almost “must” win situation due to a first game that was the poster child for Bad Start. Framber Valdez struggled from the get-go, allowing the first leadoff home run in World Series history and leaving after 2 innings, having given up 5 of the 6 runs the Braves would tote up this night. The offense had a decent amount of traffic on the bases with 8 hits and 3 walks plus reaching base on an error, but they only pushed two home as the Astros fell 6-2. The one bright spot was seven innings of one-run ball by the bullpen. But even that came with the foreboding thought….seven innings a game by the bullpen would be an unsustainable number. The Braves had almost all good news, but the one nasty piece of news could significantly affect the series as ace Charlie Morton suffered a broken tibia on a sharp grounder by Yuli Gurriel and is gone for the series.
In a bit of irony, Jose Urquidy had a short outing in the Red Sox series (along with most of his rotation-mates) that was reversed by a strong start by Framber Valdez. In Game 2 of the World Series, Urquidy gave the team comfort with a strong outing right after Valdez had struggled in the first game. And though the Astros left some ducks on the pond in Game 2, they brought home enough of them to get out to a solid lead, and they kept the Braves at arm’s length for the win. The Astros played small ball up until Jose Altuve’s solo shot in the seventh inning. They were assisted by some clutch hitting and productive outs and some questionable fielding for the Braves. Plus, Jose Siri reaching base due to his tremendous speed and coming all the way around on Maldonado’s single because Atlanta turned into a Little League version of themselves. The 7-2 win seemed to take the momentum away from the Braves, but as Dusty Baker says – momentum lasts only as long as your next starter’s performance.
Now the Astros are in Georgia for the next three games. Both teams are in an almost unbelievable pitching situation for World Series teams. Both teams have possible aces who did not pitch for them this year. Mike Soroka was tremendous for the Braves in 2019 but had an Achilles tendon injury that cut short his 2020 season and, when he popped it again, ended up missing all of 2021. Of course, the Astros ace, Justin Verlander, pitched in one game in 2020 and none in 2021, recovering from TJ surgery. Astros lost the next ace up in Lance McCullers with an arm injury earlier in the playoffs. The Braves lost the next ace up, Charlie Morton, to a broken fibula in Game 1 of the World Series.
Both teams next “aces” up, Framber Valdez for the Astros and Max Fried for the Braves, looked like jokers instead in their first appearances in the WS. The teams have announced that Luis Garcia will face Ian Anderson tonight, but future pairings are the dreaded TBD at this point. Whichever team can nurse their bullpen the best and perhaps get a longer than expected start from someone/anyone may well win this World Series.
But in the absence of that, the Astros must get on an offensive roll if they want to take back this trophy that no one but their friends wants them to have.