World Series X-factors for the Atlanta Braves
The stage has been set for the 117th World Series, as the Houston Astros – winners of their third AL pennant in five years – will take on the Atlanta Braves, who are in their first Fall Classic since 1999.
On Sunday, we discussed the three “X-factors” for the Astros in the 2021 World Series. Now we’ll discuss the three “X-factors” for the Braves.
World Series 2021
Tue, November 2 2021, 11:00 PM
Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson
Relief pitchers have had more impact than ever in the 2021 MLB playoffs. Atlanta’s two most-used set-up men for closer Will Smith – Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson – will play a huge role in determining the Braves’ World Series fate.
Matzek appeared in each of the Braves’ first eight playoff games – a postseason record – tallying seven scoreless outings. After getting a day off in a Game 5 blowout, he registered two scoreless innings en route to a Game 6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
Matzek has been terrific on the mound, but is it sustainable? And how will he fare against Houston’s top-rated offense by runs per game? The Astros are fourth in OPS against southpaws this season.
As for Jackson, Braves manager Brian Snitker’s other “go-to guy” in middle relief, he recorded six straight scoreless outings before getting rocked for four runs by the Dodgers in Game 3, and being chased without recording an out in Game 6. Which Jackson will show up in the Fall Classic?
Jorge Soler played three games in the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers before being placed on the COVID-19 list. He came back for Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS, striking out in a pinch-hitting appearance before getting a pinch-hit double.
Soler is most likely to play DH in Games 1 and 2, and may return to his spot at leadoff when he does, though it will be tough for Snitker to move down the red-hot Eddie Rosario.
Soler can be a streaky hitter; he went 9-for-23 (.391) with three homers down the stretch of the regular season, before going 1-for-11 in the NLDS. His two pinch-hit appearances in the NLCS are Soler’s career in a microcosm.
It will be fascinating to watch his World Series plate appearances.
Freddie Freeman’s 2021 postseason performance has been positive overall for the Braves, but it’s been a roller coaster.
Freeman started 1-for-8 in the NLDS before erupting for a three-hit game, including the series-clinching home run in Game 4. Then he began the NLCS 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts before recording another three-hit game. He homered in Games 4 and 5, before drawing four walks in Game 6 in a strange turn of events.
Will it be another slow start before a dynamic finish for Freeman in the World Series?