After a particularly lopsided game to open up the 2021 World Series, the Houston Astros need to put together a much more crisp overall performance in Game 2 on Wednesday if they’re going to avoid a 2-0 hole against the Atlanta Braves.
José Urquidy will start Game 2 for the Astros while the Braves will go with Max Fried.
The Astros hope they’ll get some more outs (and many more competitive pitches) from Urquidy than they got from Framber Valdez in their 6-2 Game 1 loss on Tuesday night in Houston. Jorge Soler greeted Valdez with a home run on the third pitch of the game, the first time a player leading off the World Series went yard. It was a sign of worse things to come, as the Braves added another run in the first and then scored once in the second and twice in the third. That would be it for Valdez.
Houston’s bullpen kept Atlanta in check but it didn’t matter, as the Astros could only muster one run apiece off A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek. The Braves had to go to their bullpen early as well because Charlie Morton left in the third with what was later diagnosed as a fractured fibula in his right leg. He was able to pitch through the injury — likely suffered on a comebacker hit by Yuli Gurriel — for a few batters, yet will miss the rest of the World Series, dealing the Braves’ rotation a huge blow.
The newcomers for the Braves did most of the damage, as Soler and Adam Duvall hit long-balls and Eddie Rosario added a pair of hits — and threw out Gurriel trying to stretch a single into a double. Besides the Morton injury, it was a perfect night for Atlanta and a terrible one for the Astros, who have to brush it aside.
First pitch from Minute Maid Park is at 8:09 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Astros as -115 moneyline favorites and as +170 favorites on the runline. The Braves are +105 moneyline underdogs and -200 underdogs on the runline. MLB playoff odds have the over/under at 8½ runs.
Urquidy Will Bounce Back
It was a somewhat curious decision for the Astros to roll with Urquidy in Game 2 on a full week of rest instead of Luis García on regular rest following his dominant outing in the decisive Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Houston is going with the more-rested Urquidy now and García in Game 3, which won’t be questioned if Urquidy pitches well and the Astros win but will be analyzed in-depth if he doesn’t and they lose.
Urquidy, unlike García, is coming off a nightmarish start in his last outing. He only appeared once in the ALCS, in Game 3, and was shelled. He didn’t make it out of the second inning, giving up six runs (five earned) on five hits and a pair of walks. Urquidy wasn’t helped by a José Altuve error that may have limited the damage to one run, however, and that misplay led to Kyle Schwarber hitting a monstrous grand slam in the next at-bat.
So while Urquidy certainly didn’t pitch well, he didn’t deserve the ugly line he ended up with. He didn’t appear in the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox, but has a solid overall playoff track record and was really good during the regular season, posting a sub-1.00 WHIP. Of course, the Braves’ lineup can put up runs quickly and Urquidy has had trouble with the long ball, yet you should expect him to give the Astros a solid four or five innings as they even up this series. If you’re betting online, you should back Urquidy.
Fried Can Be Hit
The Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly solved the question of how to get to Fried in Game 5 of the NLCS, hanging eight hits and five runs on him in 4.2 innings. Fried’s prior two starts this postseason — against the Milwaukee Brewers and Dodgers — were stellar but, last week, Los Angeles ambushed him with a few home runs and did a good job of not chasing his sharp curveball outside of the strike zone.
If there’s any team that can lay off Fried’s waste pitches, it’s the Astros because they just don’t strike out much as a team. Fried isn’t a huge strikeout pitcher so he relies on keeping opponents off the base paths — especially by not issuing many walks — in order to win. He also needs to coax a lot of ground balls. Houston matches up well with him because the Astros hit a lot of fly balls and won’t get themselves out.
As far as MLB picks go, you should take a desperate Astros team on the runline.
Atlanta’s Bullpen Is Taxed
Both teams’ relief units were heavily used in Game 1 on Tuesday with each starter leaving before the end of the third inning. However, because the Braves didn’t use their designated long man (Drew Smyly), they had to use all their trusted relievers and could be without a couple of them on Wednesday.
Minter threw 43 pitches while Luke Jackson and Matzek each threw 20 pitches. Will Smith threw 18 pitches to get the save. Minter should be unavailable while Jackson and Matzek likely will be available, but both have been heavily used all postseason and Brian Snitker — with his team already having stolen home-field advantage — could try to get those guys extra rest. He has that luxury with a 1-0 game series lead.
The MLB lines are favoring the Astros because they have the best offense in baseball and because of how hard it is for an underdog to steal the first two games of any playoff series, not to mention the World Series, on the road. Houston won’t go down 2-0 because the Astros’ offense won’t be held down two nights in a row.