The Astros will turn to Framber Valdez to stave off elimination in tonight’s fifth game of the World Series, while the Braves will kick off a bullpen game with another rookie pitcher. The Braves announced this afternoon that left-hander Tucker Davidson will get the start (or, more accurately, serve as the opener) in what will be Davidson’s first career postseason appearance, and only his sixth career games at the Major League level. Davidson was added to the Braves’ World Series roster as an injury replacement after Charlie Morton suffered a fractured fibula during Game 1.
Davidson made one start for Atlanta in 2020 and then posted a 3.60 ERA over four starts and 20 innings this season, with his most recent MLB outing coming back on June 15 due to a forearm injury. In fact, Davidson has only pitched one game total since that June 15 start, tossing three innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on the final day of the minor league season (October 3).
Though Davidson is one of the better pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system, obviously it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll be able to deliver on the mound, even in what might amount to just an inning of work. That said, given how the rest of the Braves bullpen has stifled Houston’s lineup throughout the World Series, Davidson’s task is just to avoid disaster and then turn things over to his veteran teammates.
The Braves followed this same script in Game 4, as rookie Dylan Lee worked as the opener and pitched to four batters, recording one out and allowing a run on a hit and two walks. Kyle Wright then entered the game to bail Lee out, and Wright proceeded to toss 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball. A scoreless inning each from Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson, and Will Smith later, and Atlanta sealed a 3-2 victory and a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series.
Astros hitters have combined for a meager .206/.291/.298 slash line over the four games against the Braves, with only Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker showing any consistency at the plate. Starting the southpaw Davidson in Game 5 could be a preventative measure on Atlanta’s part against Houston moving the left-handed hitting Tucker up in the batting order, though the Braves have plenty of other left-handed options on their roster.
The lack of production from the usually-reliable lineup is the biggest issue facing the Astros, as their own pitchers have done a solid job of limiting Atlanta’s offense over the last three games, with only one victory to show for it. In Game 1, however, the Braves hit Valdez hard for five runs over two innings, setting up a 6-2 Atlanta win in the Series opener.
It has been a roller-coaster of a playoffs for Valdez, who has been very shaky outside of his eight-inning/one-run gem against the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALCS. In Valdez’s other three starts this postseason, he has been torched for 11 runs over nine innings of work. With the season on the line for the Astros, manager Dusty Baker may have a relatively quick hook for Valdez at the first sign of trouble, as Houston will have every available arm at the ready to try and get the Series to a sixth game.