The Houston Astros offense picked the right time to turn things around and earned a trip back to Minute Maid Park in the process. The Atlanta Braves will now have to try and win the World Series on the road after Sunday’s 9-5 loss. Adam Duvall’s first-inning grand slam sent Truist Park into a frenzy, but the Astros scored nine of the 10 runs the rest of the way and forced Game 6 on Tuesday night.
The Braves will send out Max Fried on full rest and the Astros will counter with Luis Garcia. Will we have a winner-take-all Game 7 or will the Braves take a title back to Georgia?
Game 6: Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros (-120, 9)
The Astros went into Game 5 with four hits with a runner in scoring position in the series. They had five in Game 5 alone. Houston had 15 at bats with RISP compared to just three for Atlanta and that was ultimately the difference in the game. The only hit with a runner in scoring position for the Braves came on the Duvall grand slam. The only other run was a Freddie Freeman solo shot.
The Astros scored nine runs without the benefit of a home run. Houston drew six walks, three of them off of Tucker Davidson, who was forced into starting duties because of the injury to Charlie Morton. Houston got a poor start from Framber Valdez for the second time in the series, but the bats bailed out the left-hander.
Houston was 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position prior to Game 5, but now the lineup has a little bit of life and some more belief. Furthermore, the series shifts back to an AL ballpark now, so the Astros will be able to use Yordan Alvarez as the DH and put a stronger defensive lineup in play.
Atlanta will also get the benefit of another hitter, which means that Fried can just focus on pitching. He struggled to get settled in early against the Astros in his Game 2 start, as the Houston bats scored five runs over the first two innings. Fried settled down and threw three scoreless innings to finish his outing, but the damage was already done and the Braves only scored two runs in support of him.
That was a second straight rough start from Fried, as he also allowed five runs in Game 5 of the NLCS while throwing 4.2 innings. Fried tied his career high in innings pitched during the regular season and has added 21.2 high-stress frames in the postseason. He’s allowed 13 runs on 26 hits with a 23/3 K/BB ratio. We may be seeing some of the effects of that workload.
Garcia was effectively wild in Game 3. He was the losing pitcher, but only allowed one run on three hits in 3.2 innings. He struck out six, but also walked four. The Astros failed to get a hit until the eighth inning in Garcia’s last start, so he’ll certainly be hoping for more offensive support here. He had a 3.30 ERA with a 3.63 FIP during a very solid regular season over 155.1 innings of work. He has only thrown 13 postseason innings and has allowed 11 runs on 11 hits with 18 strikeouts against 11 walks.
We have two pitchers that feel like complete wild cards here. Both have struggled in recent outings and are young arms that have hit new thresholds this season, so it is really tough to pinpoint what we may get in this game.
One thing worth noting here is that Garcia had a 2.39 ERA and much better control and command metrics at Minute Maid Park than he did on the road. Garcia had a 28.8 percent strikeout rate at home compared to a 24.1 percent mark on the road. His walk rate was also 3.8 percent lower at home, where he had a 2.97 FIP compared to a 4.32 away from home.
With the series back in Houston, the Astros can optimize their defense and also have a more favorable ballpark situation for Garcia. The Astros also refrained from using Jake Odorizzi, so he could be the first option out of the pen if Garcia struggles. The Braves may be forced to try and push Fried just a little bit farther, even if he isn’t at his best.
I’d look for Houston to force that decisive Game 7 with the series back at home.
Pick: Houston Astros