MLB

MLB World Series Game 1: three things to watch for

The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros start the World Series this Tuesday with Framber Valdez and Charlie Morton starting. Here's 3 things to watch for.

The Atlanta Braves surprised us by winning the National League pennant, their first since 1999, and clutching a spot in the 2021 World Series. The Houston Astros are heading to the World Series for the third time in five years after an impressive win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday, presumably without cheating this time.

Neither of these teams were necessarily high up on the list of teams we expected to make it this far, but here we are. So here are some of the things you should watch for in game one of the MLB World Series.

1. Houston Cheaters

When the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017, it was overshadowed by scandal. The team was found guilty of stealing pitch signs during the series. An MLB probe revealed that they had been watching a feed from a camera in center field in order to decode signs, and then would bang on trashcans to signal to the batters which pitches they could expect in the 2017 as well as 2018 seasons. They received a fine of $5 million and had to give up their first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. Though it was the players who committed the crime, the managers didn’t stop it, and thus the manager and general manager were both suspended for a year, and then promptly fired by the Astros owner. I expect there will still be some bitter people in the audience, especially considering there are still a few players on the team that were involved in the scandal.

2. Braves Pitchers vs Astros Batters

The Astros have had the best offense in baseball this year in both wRC+ (116) and runs per game (5.41). They have scored 67 runs in the playoffs to the Braves 40. The Astros have not been striking out as often as the Braves have, but on offense, they’re making contact more than anyone else in the MLB, including the Braves. If the Braves can’t keep up offensively, it will be up to starting pitchers, Charlie Morton, Max Fried, and Ian Anderson and the rest of the bullpen to try to keep Houston from making contact.

3. Hot Hitters Eddie Rosario and Yordan Álvarez

The Braves Eddie Rosario and Astros Yordan Álvarez are the teams' best hitters. Here are the stats for each of them:

Yordan Álvarez ALCS stats: .522 AVG, .870 SLG, 1.408 OPS, 1 HR, 5 XBH
Eddie Rosario NLCS stats:
.560 AVG, 1.040 SLG, 1.647 OPS, 3 HR, 5 XBH

Of the 28 runs that the Braves scored in the six-game NLCS, Eddie Rosario was responsible for nine of them. He had 14 hits against the Dodgers, tying with four other players for most hits in a series, though those other four needed seven games to reach that record, while Rosario only needed six. Meanwhile, the Astros’ Yordan Álvarez outhit the entire Red Sox lineup in the last two games of the series. He thrived against the hard throws, going five for eight against 95mph fastballs in the ALCS. If the Braves want to take him out, they’ll need to try with some offspeed pitches, as that seems to be Alvarez’s weakness. As for Rosario’s weakness, the Astros should plan to use their sliders, as Rosario has swung and missed on over half the attempts he took against sliders in the NLCS.

Full MLB World Series Scedule:

Game 1: Braves at Astros, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 8:09 p.m. ET

Game 2: Braves at Astros, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 8:09 p.m. ET

Game 3: Astros at Braves, Friday, Oct. 29, 8:09 p.m. ET

Game 4: Astros at Braves, Saturday, Oct. 30, 8:09 p.m. ET

Game 5 (if necessary): Astros at Braves, Sunday, Oct. 31, 8:15 p.m. ET

Game 6 (if necessary): Braves at Astros, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 8:09 p.m. ET

Game 7 (if necessary): Braves at Astros, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 8:09 p.m. ET