The vaunted Astros lineup has leen hit or miss, being completely held in check in Games 1 and 3 with a breakout in Game 2. Now, heavily favored Houston is down 2-1.
Veteran Zack Greinke will get the start for Houston while the Braves — now down a starter after Charlie Morton’s injury — will employ a bullpen game with Dylan Lee as the opener.
Ian Anderson threw five no-hit innings against the Astros in Friday’s Game 3 before Brian Snitker went to his bullpen in a smart yet controversial move. A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith each chipped in scoreless innings to maintain an Atlanta lead for the 2-0 win. Houston didn’t get a hit until Aledmys Díaz blooped a single to left field off Matzek in the eighth, but the Astros couldn’t do anything with it. They wound up with just two hits, both singles.
The Braves didn’t do much offensively either, but they got enough support. Austin Riley ripped an RBI double off Luis García in the third inning to give Atlanta an early 1-0 lead and Travis d’Arnaud added some insurance with a solo home run in the eighth.
First pitch from Truist Park is at 8:09 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Astros as -101 moneyline favorites. The Braves are -109 moneyline underdogs. Current MLB lines have the over/under at 9 runs.
Greinke Can Provide A Few Good Innings
Dusty Baker won’t expect a classic Greinke start as the six-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner is clearly on the downturn of his career and has struggled in 2021. His strikeout rate of 6.3 punchouts per nine innings in the regular season was his worst mark since 2005. He hasn’t been used much in the postseason — only pitching 2.1 innings in low-leverage situations — so it’s kind of up in the air how he’ll do against a strong Braves lineup.
Greinke does have a solid playoff track record so he is used to pitching well in big games, and he has been good for the Astros in the last couple of postseasons. The expectations won’t be particularly high for him tonight, though, as Baker said he’ll let Greinke go as long as he can which means he’ll be on a short leash. At the first sight of trouble, the Astros’ bullpen will get going.
If you’re betting online, you should side with the Astros. The pitching situation is still kind of murky because of all the unknowns surrounding Greinke, but the Astros have enough options to piece things together well.
Braves’ Bullpen Game Will Be Tricky
Atlanta’s “A” bullpen group — Minter, Jackson, Matzek, and Smith — went on Friday and each pitcher threw 17 pitches or fewer. That, coupled with the fact that Thursday was an off day, means that all four of those trusted relievers should be available to go on Saturday.
But, that still leaves around four to five innings that need to be gobbled up. Lee will start. Drew Smyly could be saved to be the bulk guy for Atlanta in Game 5, which might mean a lot of Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin early in Game 4. Tucker Davidson and Kyle Wright are starters who can provide length but they’re both young and inexperienced, so Snitker likely wouldn’t use them unless this game got out of hand in either direction. Chavez and Martin might need to go two innings apiece.
As far as MLB picks go, the Astros are the smart play here. The Braves’ bullpen has stepped up all postseason after it was bad for months during the regular season. However, it’s being asked to do a little too much and it might be stretched too thin. Tonight, that should be enough for the Astros to take advantage. The MLB playoff odds aren’t giving enough respect to Houston here.