By Wyatt Bose ’23
A match-up of the ages: due to COVID-19 and complicated scheduling, the Braves and Astros have not faced off since 2017. With a fresh, young group of Houston arms in Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia and a deep Atlanta line-up led by Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies, this series is set-up to go the distance.
After becoming one of few managers to win the pennant in both the American and National Leagues, Dusty Baker aims to bid farewell in dramatic fashion. Baker played eight years of his career with Atlanta (1968-1975) and says he has not forgotten his friends in the Braves’ organization.
Baker played seven years with the late Hank Aaron (1934-2021) who took him under his wing during their time in Atlanta together. Aaron died of natural causes earlier this year and Baker told the media that he cannot wait to see some of Aaron’s family members when he and the Astros travel to Atlanta for games 3-5.
However, baseball fans across the country have not been as inspired to root for “Dusty” this postseason as they have in the past.
On their way to a World Series title back in 2017, the Astros illegally took part in a sign-stealing strategy led by head coach AJ Hinch (now fired) and current players Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. While the Astros may be despised in every ballpark outside of Minute Maid Park, players like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman spoke on their actions, looking to create a new name for themselves.
“We were wrong for everything we did in 2017. It’s not what we stand for. It’s not what we want to portray as an organization, and we were definitely wrong about all that and we feel really sorry. We affected careers, we affected the game in some way, and looking back at it, it was just bad,” Carlos Correa said.
When asked if he was embarrassed for what he and his teammates had done to the sport of baseball as a whole, Bregman answered: “Yes. I’ve learned from this and I hope to regain their trust. This team is going to work extremely hard to do that, on and off the field.”
The Braves on the other hand managed to catch fire after they lost breakout star Ronald Acuña Jr. to a torn ACL on July 10. With constant changes and modifications to their outfield throughout the regular season, Atlanta’s mid-season acquisitions have brought some serious firepower an already deep line-up. All four outfielders in Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, and Joc Pederson have made it difficult for manager Brian Snitker to settle on a starting outfield.
For the World Series, Rosario (LF), Adam Duvall (CF), and Joc Pederson (RF) are expected to be Snitker’s starting outfield, while Jorge Soler will DH in all games played in Houston. However, when the Fall Classic shifts to Atlanta, all bets are off as Snitker will have to keep one of the four on the bench. Furthermore, despite some skepticism in regard to their pitching staff heading into October, starters like Ian Anderson and relievers like Tyler Matzek have yet to disappoint.
Ultimately, as most postseason battles typically do, this unexpected match-up between the Braves and Astros will come down to pitching. Whether it’s “Joctober” for Atlanta or the superstars for Houston, whichever high-powered offense can put up a crooked number early, rattle the opposing starter, and give their bullpen some run support will more than likely take home “The Commissioner’s Trophy.”