The Houston Astros are regulars when it comes to recent appearances in the World Series, while the Atlanta Braves are back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1999.
The Astros aim to get off on the right foot in the best-of-seven series on Tuesday when they host Game 1 against the Braves.
While Houston is making its third World Series appearance in five years, Astros manager Dusty Baker returns to the Fall Classic for the first time since his 2002 San Francisco Giants fell to the then-Anaheim Angels in seven games.
Nineteen years later, one would think that Baker can’t wait for the first pitch. Well, Baker dispelled that notion Monday.
“I don’t get too excited too quickly because that’s wasted emotion and energy at the time that you’re going to need for the game,” he said.
The Astros have shown plenty of emotion and energy after their high-powered offense propelled them past the Chicago White Sox in the American League Division and Boston Red Sox in the AL Championship Series.
Houston has erupted for 67 runs in its 10 postseason games.
Leading the charge is Yordan Alvarez, who landed ALCS Most Valuable Player honors after finishing 12-for-23 (.522) with a homer, six RBIs and seven runs. He was 9-for-13 with five extra-base hits over the last three games, during which the Astros outscored the Red Sox by a 23-3 margin.
Alvarez said he isn’t fazed by facing several of Atlanta’s quality left-handed relievers.
“It’s the same mentality,” Alvarez said Monday. “Just go out and try to take care of the job and do damage. Just go out and try to win every day. I think it’s the same mentality. We’re going to go out and try to do everything we can to win the championship.”
Houston left-hander Framber Valdez will take the ball on Tuesday, pitching on regular rest. He is 1-0 with a 4.20 ERA in three 2021 postseason starts.
Valdez, 27, would love to repeat his dominance from his last start. He allowed one run on three hits in eight innings to earn the win in a 9-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
“His curveball is very sharp, and he blends it in real well with the sinker,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said of Valdez. “I faced him last year in the summer camp, and the sinker is obviously his best pitch, the one he uses the most.
“When he starts throwing that curveball back foot, it breaks really late. So it’s really hard for hitters to tell the difference between the curveball and the sinker. That’s what makes him very special.”
Valdez would be wise to tread carefully around Eddie Rosario, the MVP of the National League Championship Series. He went 14-for-25 (.560) with three home runs and nine RBIs in Atlanta’s six-game win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Atlanta will counter Tuesday with right-hander Charlie Morton, who forever will be tied with Houston. After all, he picked up the win for the Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers.
Morton, 37, is pitching in his fifth straight postseason and owns a 7-4 record with a 3.45 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, including 15 starts. He recently admitted the drive to reach the baseball’s second season is what fuels him.
“The most special moments that I’ve had in my career … those are the underlying similarities, just, like, man, ‘I did it,'” Morton said. “I didn’t let the guys down, the team down. I didn’t let the organization down. The fans. That’s just obviously on the field.
“But that’s what I’ll remember is probably that feeling of just kind of just some relief that I was able to do it.”
Morton is 0-1 with a 3.77 ERA in three postseason starts this year. He received a no-decision on Oct. 19 in Game 3 of the NLCS after allowing two runs on three hits with six walks in five innings.
The Astros announced Monday that right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. will be unable to pitch in the World Series due to a strained forearm muscle.
The availability of Houston center fielder Jake Meyers was not immediately known as he continues to work his way back from a left shoulder injury.
–Field Level Media