ATLANTA -- Let’s begin again, with reset 'pens and rookie starters and the World Series recast as a best-of-five. Let’s do it in Truist Park, the suburban home of the Atlanta Braves that will host its first Fall Classic and the first Braves home games on this stage in this century. Let’s do it without designated hitters, possibly in the last World Series without them.
The Astros just snapped a five-game home losing streak in the World Series, and now the Braves, in the midst of a five-game home losing streak that began in 1996 and continued in 1999, will look to do the same.
“I think the fans are excited,” Braves starter Ian Anderson said. “I think Atlanta sports fans are always into this time of year. We've had some success, the teams and the city have had some success. So we're looking to get it done for them.”
Game 3 will be a rare, rookie-oriented affair, with Anderson on the hill for the Braves and Luis Garcia going for Houston. This marks just the eighth game in World Series history and the first since Game 1 in 2006 (the Tigers’ Justin Verlander vs. the Cardinals’ Anthony Reyes) to feature two rookie starters, and that could mess with the minds of some of the hitters.
“If you've never seen him, you can watch film all you want to,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, “but until you see his release point, you see him on the mound -- I always thought it was just easier for you to be throwing the ball where you want to throw it to, who you want to throw to.”
But of course, because this is the 2021 postseason, the outcome likely falls just as much on the bullpens as the starters. Both of these 'pens have lugged a heavy load this October. Thus far in this Series, starters have accounted for 14 1/3 innings, while relievers have logged 20 2/3. So both clubs welcomed Thursday’s off-day with open (and rested) arms, especially a Braves team that lost veteran starter Charlie Morton to a fractured fibula in Game 1.
“The bullpen's going to play a big part, obviously, in what we've got going on because we lost a huge starter,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “So we're going to have probably two games [Games 4 and 5] we're going to pitch 18 innings out of that bullpen.”
That only adds to the importance of Game 3. And here’s the statistical significance of such a game when the Series is tied 1-1: The winner of this game in such a scenario has gone on to win the title 39 times in 60 tries (65%). That includes six of the last nine and 13 of the last 17 instances.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 3 is scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT and will be broadcast on FOX. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
What are the starting lineups?
Astros: Goodbye to the designated hitter. Game 3 of the World Series will be played in a National League park, which means pitchers will hit. The Astros moved designated hitter Yordan Alvarez -- the ALCS MVP -- to left field, with Michael Brantley moving to right and Kyle Tucker from right to center.
Braves: With the series shifting back to Atlanta, the DH will not be in play. So, to keep Jorge Soler’s bat in the lineup, the Braves put him back in right field in place of Joc Pederson, who has gone 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts over his past five games.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Astros: Garcia (1-1, 9.64 ERA) rebounded from two poor starts against the White Sox and Red Sox in the ALDS and ALCS, respectively, by earning the win with 5 2/3 scoreless, one-hit innings in Houston's pennant-clinching ALCS Game 6 win. He will be pitching on a week’s worth of rest, which could benefit his fastball velocity. He was hitting 97 mph consistently in Game 6 against the Red Sox after not pitching for two weeks. Garcia had one pitch of at least 97 mph in the regular season.
Braves: Anderson (1-0, 2.25 ERA) will be making his first career World Series start. The 23-year-old hurler has made just 30 career regular-season starts, but he has produced a 1.47 ERA through seven career postseason starts.
Anderson has been given a chance to complete five innings in just one of three playoff starts this year. But knowing they could go with a bullpen game in Games 4 and 5, the Braves will likely push him longer than they did against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Astros: The off-day will help the Astros reset their bullpen, so they should be in pretty solid shape heading into Friday’s Game 3 -- the first of three games in three consecutive days. Cristian Javier, who threw 27 pitches in Game 2, will be available to help bridge the gap to the back-end bullpen guys.
Braves: Each of the Braves’ top relievers will have two days’ rest heading into what could be a busy weekend. A.J. Minter needed a couple of days of rest after throwing 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday. Minter and Tyler Matzek have been two of the team’s most valuable pieces throughout the postseason. They have teamed with right-hander Luke Jackson to serve as reliable setup men for Will Smith, who has been much more efficient during the playoffs.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Astros: The one reliever the Astros would like to avoid is Jake Odorizzi, who threw an extended outing in Game 1. They’d like to have him available for Game 4 on Saturday, when Zack Greinke is probably going to start. Greinke isn’t stretched out, so he would likely max out at three or four innings.
Braves: The Braves will be at full strength.
Any injuries of note?
Braves: Morton fractured his right fibula during Tuesday’s Game 1 and will miss the remainder of the Fall Classic. So, too, will Huascar Ynoa, who was removed from the NLCS roster with right shoulder inflammation.
Who is hot and who is not?
Astros: Brantley is 5-for-9 in the World Series with a pair of multihit games and Tucker is 3-for-7. Then there’s Correa, who’s 1-for-7, and Bregman, who’s 0-for-7 in the World Series.
Braves: Rosario has hit .426 with a 1.173 OPS this postseason. Freeman has a .995 OPS through 12 playoff games. d’Arnaud struggled through the first two rounds, but is 3-for-8 with a homer through the first two World Series games.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The Braves have won 10 of their last 11 home games, including each of the five played during the postseason. Their lone loss during that span occurred on Oct. 1, a day after they clinched the NL East.
Teams scoring first in the 2021 postseason are 26-7.
Altuve delivered a double and home run in Game 2, his 36th and 37th career postseason extra-base hits. That's sixth-most in postseason history, trailing Derek Jeter (57), Bernie Williams (51), Manny Ramirez (48), David Ortiz (41) and Albert Pujols (38). Altuve has 22 career postseason home runs, tied with Williams for second-most all-time in postseason history, trailing only Ramirez (29). Altuve reached 22 homers in just 75 career playoff games.
The Astros have played two games in Truist Park, both of which came during a series in Atlanta on July 4-5, 2017. They outscored Atlanta 26-8 in two blowout wins.