The Atlanta Braves may not need to book another flight to Houston. The Astros are hoping to live to fight another day and force a return trip to the Lone Star State.
The stakes are as high as possible for Game 5 between the Astros and Braves on Sunday night. A win for Atlanta and the World Series title will belong to the Braves for the first time since 1995. A win for the Astros and Game 6 will be on Tuesday.
Game 5: Houston Astros (-115, 8.5) at Atlanta Braves
We already know that the Astros will throw Game 1 starter Framber Valdez. The Braves will make a decision during the day on Sunday as far as who will start. This was supposed to be the spot for almost 38-year-old Charlie Morton, but he was hit by a comebacker in Game 1 and suffered a fractured fibula.
Dylan Lee got the call in Game 4 and gave up a hit and two walks before Kyle Wright came in and put out the fire with just one run allowed. Wright’s 4.2 innings were huge for the Braves and he was able to turn it over to the bullpen, as four relievers combined for four scoreless innings. Houston has not scored off the Atlanta bullpen in the last two games and only has one run in the last three games against the relief corps.
Tucker Davidson replaced Morton on the roster and didn’t pitch in Game 3, so it could be him or fellow left-hander Drew Smyly that gets the start. Smyly threw an inning in relief in Game 2 with a big deficit, so the Astros got a look at him, but he only threw 22 pitches, so he’ll be well-rested for this appearance if called upon.
Smyly should pitch in some capacity no matter what. He had a 4.48 ERA with a 5.11 FIP during the season and didn’t live up to the $11 million that Atlanta offered to pay him very early in the free agency process. Davidson, who could also make an appearance, has allowed 10 earned runs on 18 hits in 21.2 innings at the MLB level.
In other words, it will be another “all hands on deck” kind of evening for the Braves. It seems very unlikely that Max Fried will get the call on short rest, given that the Braves now have three chances to finish off the series and could use Fried on full rest in Game 6, if necessary.
Valdez will attempt to bounce back from a rough outing in Game 1 for the Astros. The 27-year-old southpaw had a 3.14 ERA with a 4.01 FIP during the regular season over 134.2 innings of work. He gave up five runs on eight hits and only struck out two batters in the first game of the series, which Atlanta won 6-2.
Valdez has now allowed 12 earned runs on 24 hits with a 15/6 K/BB ratio in his 17 innings this postseason. Houston really needs him to step up here and follow the lead of Zack Greinke, who threw four shutout innings in Game 4. It was the Astros bullpen that faltered late, as Cristian Javier gave up back-to-back home runs to Jorge Soler and Dansby Swanson to decide the game.
The Astros were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and really squandered some early opportunities. After Wright left the game to start the sixth, the Astros managed just two hits and didn’t draw any walks. The Astros are just 4-for-31 with a runner in scoring position in this series. The Braves are just 5-for-25, so that’s why we’ve wound up with three unders in four games.
The under seems to be the way to go in Game 5 as well. The stakes for this game couldn’t be higher and typically the bigger the game, the more limited the scoring is. That has been the case in this series so far and especially the two games in Atlanta. We had three solo home runs on Saturday to make up 60 percent of the offense. One of the two runs in Game 3 came via the home run.
This is what the postseason has become. Teams don’t really manufacture innings. We’ve seen chances for both offenses to a degree, but the playoffs are a low-scoring environment for the most part and that should be the case again in Game 5, as the Braves will throw out a bunch of different arms and the Astros will hope for more from Valdez.
Pick: Under 8.5