The existent underdog constituent lone adds to the quality of baseball’s postseason. In 2019 that squad was the Nationals, who emerged from the National League wild-card circular and methodically knocked disconnected the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros to triumph the World Series.
This twelvemonth it’s the Braves — whose 88 victories were the fewest of immoderate nine to scope the postseason — proudly wearing the underdog crown, arsenic they hole to look an Astros squad that has reached the World Series for the 3rd clip successful 5 seasons, which included a 2017 satellite championship.
The Post’s Mike Puma breaks down the matchup betwixt the NL East and AL West champions arsenic Tuesday’s Game 1 approaches:
At the plate
Getting connected base
Eddie Rosario was named MVP of the NLCS aft tying a MLB postseason bid grounds with 14 hits. The erstwhile Indians outfielder joins Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley to springiness the Braves a formidable apical four. For arsenic overmuch powerfulness arsenic Freeman possesses, his .393 on-base percent is besides impressive.
Jose Altuve is inactive a beingness atop the lineup for the Astros, who person Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman down him. Nobody was amended astatine getting connected basal during the ALCS than Yordan Alvarez, who was named MVP of the bid aft reaching basal astatine a .535 clip. During the regular season, the Astros led MLB with a .340 on-base percentage.
The Braves had 4 players (Riley, Freeman, Albies and Dansby Swanson who topped 25 homers this season). Riley emerged arsenic an MVP campaigner aft hitting 33 homers, but the seasoned Freeman, who came connected beardown successful the NLCS aft a dilatory start, inactive has to beryllium considered the astir feared hitter successful Atlanta’s lineup. Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall are powerfulness bats the Braves acquired astatine the commercialized deadline.
There are plentifulness of large bats successful the Astros’ lineup, starting with Alvarez, who blasted 33 homers during the regular season. Altuve (31 homers) and Kyle Tucker (30) were close down him. Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel person popular and adjacent light-hitting catcher Martin Maldanado deed 12 homers.
On the basepaths
Albies was 20-for-24 successful stolen-base attempts during the regular season, giving the Braves a beingness connected the bases. He besides swiped 2 bases against the Dodgers successful the NLCS. Swanson stole 9 bases during the regular season.
Tucker was 14-for-16 successful stolen basal attempts during the regular play for the Astros.
In the field
Freeman, Albies and Swanson are each supra mean defensively, but Riley is shaky astatine 3rd base, ranking successful lone the 5th percentile for outs supra mean among players astatine the presumption this season, according to shot savant.
The Astros person a premier double-play operation successful Correa and Altuve. At the corner-infield spots, Bregman and Gurriel bring passable gloves.
Duvall is simply a standout successful halfway field, but Rosario and Pederson connected the corners are beneath average. Guillermo Heredia serves arsenic a beardown late-inning antiaircraft replacement for the Braves successful the outfield, moving Duvall to right.
Chas McCormick brings an exceptional mitt and velocity to halfway tract for the Astros. Kyle Tucker is good supra mean arsenic a close fielder, but Michael Brantley is stationary successful left.
Soler and Heredia are the 2 large seat options for the Braves, but 1 tin commencement successful Houston, wherever the DH volition beryllium successful use. Johan Camargo and Orlando Arcia are besides extent options.
Jason Castro is the Astros’ champion enactment disconnected the seat — helium was 2-for-3 with a homer against the Red Sox successful the ALCS.
On the mound
In the rotation
Left-hander Max Fried was the Braves ace during the regular play and pitched the champion among the team’s starters successful the NLCS. The Braves besides person Charlie Morton, who won a World Series rubric with the Astros, and Ian Anderson, who allowed lone 1 tally successful his commencement Saturday successful the NLCS clincher.
The Astros person a coagulated radical successful Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Zack Greinke. The champion of the radical during the regular play was Valdez, who pitched to a 3.14 ERA successful 22 starts. Greinke owns World Series acquisition from 2019.
In the bullpen
Tyler Matzek has pitched to a 2.00 ERA with 17 strikeouts successful 10 ¹/₃ innings this postseason. The left-hander had his champion showing successful Game 6 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, erstwhile helium struck retired the broadside aft entering with 2 runners connected basal successful a two-run game. A.J. Minter, Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin are among the different important pieces starring into person Will Smith.
The Astros person large arms successful Ryan Pressly (who saved 26 games during the regular season), Cristian Javier, Brooks Raley, Kendall Graveman and Phil Maton, among others.
Brian Snitker took the Braves to Game 7 of the NLCS past play and yet broke done this year. He brings an old-school touch, with plentifulness of analytics down him.
Dusty Baker had a Hall of Fame résumé adjacent earlier this postseason, but his bequest has been burnished by the Astros’ occurrence this season. Baker was past seen successful the World Series managing the 2002 Giants, who mislaid to the Angels.
The Braves are 5-0 astatine Truist Park this postseason, playing earlier a instrumentality basal present ecstatic implicit the franchise’s archetypal World Series quality since 1999. But are the Braves conscionable blessed to beryllium here, aft exorcising the demons from past year’s NLCS collapse?
The nucleus of the Astros’ tainted 2017 World Series title squad remains intact, with players specified arsenic Altuve, Correa and Bregman inactive connected board. Does this unit person thing to prove, chiefly that it tin triumph (presumably) without cheating?