On a day that started with some question as to whether or not the game would even be played, given the cold, damp weather in Atlanta, someone needed to tell the Astros' bats that there actually was a game that took place on Friday night in Atlanta. In their most anemic offensive outing of the postseason, the Astros lost a pivotal Game 3 to the Atlanta Braves, and now find themselves in the familiar position of trailing 2-1 in a best of seven series, just like the ALCS against Boston a week ago.
Ultimately, this Astros lineup is too good to turn Friday's performance into a trend, and hopefully Friday will be looked back upon as "just one of those nights" when things weren't clicking, but credit Atlanta, as they probably needed this particular win more than the Astros did. I'll explain why. Let's start there with a few thoughts on this game last night, as we prepare for Game 4 (weather permitting) tonight:
Ian Anderson and the Braves' bullpen came up
From purely a probability perspective, the Braves' collective pitching performance last night was huge. Of the 60 previous times the World Series was tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner went on to win 39 times — including six of the last nine, including the Astros in 2017. However, this one was so much bigger than just your average Game 3 win for the Braves. With a bullpen game on tap for Game 4 for Atlanta, and with Game 1 starter Charlie Morton now out for the Series with a broken leg forcing a bullpen game for Atlanta in Game 5 as well, the Braves HAD to have this one. At the very least, they've guaranteed themselves a Game 6 with Max Fried starting on full rest.
The Astros' bullpen is still pulling its weight, so that's good
While the Astros' bats DID go silent, and while it DID take Luis Garcia what felt like about 100 pitches to get out of the third inning (it was actually 43 pitches, but still), two developments that were the main reasons the Astros lost the game on Friday, the bright side is that the Astros' bullpen continues to stack up scoreless innings. Kendall Graveman's home run allowed to Travis d'Arnaud was only the second run given up by the Astros' bullpen since Game 3 of the ALCS. That must continue, with a bullpen game on tap for the Astros tonight (Zack Greinke gets the start) and Framber Valdez looking shaky in Game 1 of this series. So there's a silver lining if you're still bummed about the Astros being nearly no hit last night.
The NL-park outfield combo didn't bite the Astros, but we will hold our breath
As expected, Dusty Baker did whatever was necessary to keep his seven best bats in the lineup in Atlanta's stadium, where the games are played under National League rules, which means that there is no designated hitter, and we are forced to watch pitchers hit and benches get emptied for pinch hitters. So Baker had Yordan Alvarez in left field, he slid Michael Brantley over to right field, and Kyle Tucker (a Gold Glove finalist in right field) moved to center field. There were no real snafus with that plan on Friday, but if any of these games turns into an affair with a score like 8-7, some sort of offensive outburst, it will be almost impossible to avoid a play where one of the Astros outfielders is put in an uncomfortable spot. Keep your fingers crossed.
A rain out today could make for interesting strategy
As of my typing this, there is about a 50/50 chance of rain during the afternoon, and then just overcast conditions at night. Why is this important? Because both teams plan to use quite a bit of their bullpen over the next two games in Atlanta. In fact, the Braves are going EXCLUSIVELY with their bullpen the next two games. If Saturday's game were to be postponed, it would give Dusty Baker the option of using Framber Valdez in Game 4 on four days rest, and it would give Brian Snitker the option of using Max Fried in Game 5 on four days rest. I'd call that "advantage Braves" if it were to play out that way, so let's pray for no rain today, shall we?
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