The Fall Classic is set to begin on Tuesday, with the Astros and Braves meeting in Game 1 of the World Series. This is the first time these two clubs have met in the World Series, though they were pretty frequent postseason opponents back when the Astros were in the National League. Between 1997 and 2005, Atlanta and Houston met five times in NLDS play, with the Braves coming out on top in three of those matchups.
The Braves are heading to the World Series for the tenth time in their history, and in search of their fourth championship. While nothing will ever top the 1914 Miracle Braves as the franchise’s signature comeback story, the 2021 team isn’t that far off, considering how this year’s Braves were only 52-55 heading into action on August 3. By this point, Atlanta had already lost Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka to season-ending injuries, and Marcell Ozuna was away from the team (and soon to be put on administrative leave by the league) due to domestic violence charges.
However, the Braves were far from done. An aggressive trade strategy saw outfielders Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, and future NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario all added prior to the trade deadline, and Atlanta went 36-18 the rest of the way. A lackluster NL East undoubtedly helped, but the Braves kept it going into October, defeating the Brewers in the NLDS and then ousting the defending champion Dodgers in the NLCS. That last win was particularly sweet for Atlanta, considering the blown 3-1 lead against Los Angeles in the 2020 League Championship Series.
The Astros had a bit of an easier time of it in the regular season, battling with the A’s and Mariners for the AL West lead for much of the year but eventually pulling ahead in comfortable fashion. Even without such familiar names as George Springer or Justin Verlander, Houston could still rely on several core members (i.e. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel) of its last two pennant winners, plus a pitching staff that has been almost entirely overhauled since the Astros were last in the World Series in 2019.
This will be the fourth time the Astros have reached the Fall Classic, with Houston’s lone championship coming back in 2017. As you might have heard, there was more than a little controversy attached to the Astros’ success in 2017, so it’s safe to say that another championship won’t erase the “buzzers and garbage cans” cloud that may hang over the franchise for some time to come. Yet, that hardly matters to a group that has turned over a great number of its personnel since that 2017 season. Dusty Baker, for instance, has been manager for just the last two years, and it’s hard to not feel some sentiment for the veteran skipper trying to win the first World Series of his long managerial career.
Who is your pick to win it all? And, as an added bonus, how many games will be required? (poll link for app users)