Once upon a time, the Astros and Braves were regular October opponents. From 1997 to 2005, they faced off five times, with Atlanta taking the first three and Houston taking the last two meetings in the National League playoffs.
Neither team went on to win the World Series in those years, though. This time, the winner of the Houston-Atlanta matchup is guaranteed a title because, well, it’s the World Series. This one should be a doozy.
How will the World Series play out? Let’s take a look.
Braves vs. Astros odds for the World Series
(Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)
Spread: Astros -1.5
Moneyline: Dodgers -150, Braves +125
Braves vs. Astros all-time series
The Astros and Braves did not play this season. Atlanta holds a 381-325-1 lead over Houston in regular-season play. The Braves franchise originated in Boston, moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and to Atlanta in 1966. Houston started as a NL expansion franchise in 1962 and moved to the AL beginning with the 2013 season.
The Astros and Braves have met five times in the postseason, all while Houston was in the NL. The Braves eliminated the Astros in the 1997 NLDS (3-0), the 1999 NLDS (3-1) and 2001 NLDS (3-0). The Astros beat the Braves in both the 2004 NLDS (3-2) and 2005 NLDS (3-1).
The Braves have made 10 previous trips to the World Series, winning in 1892, 1914, 1957 and 1995 (their only one in Atlanta). This will be the Astros’ fourth trip to the World Series; they have one title (2017).
Three things to watch
Can Eddie Rosario continue his hitting heroics?
Rosario, the least-heralded of the four outfielders the Braves traded for this year, was incredible against the Dodgers in the NLCS, batting .560 with three homers, nine RBIs and a 1.647 OPS in the six games to earn series MVP honors. There’s no way he can continue to punish pitchers in the World Series, right? Well, that’s what everyone said about Randy Arozarena last year, when the Rays rookie looked unstoppable through the first couple of rounds of the postseason, and then he batted .364 with three more homers against the Dodgers in the World Series. Rosario is locked in at the plate, with a quick bat and good strike-zone recognition. Batting him in the leadoff spot is huge, because not only is he setting the tone, but batting him right in front of Freddie Freeman means the Astros can’t just pitch around him. So he’ll see plenty of strikes.
Can Yordan Alvarez continue his hitting heroics?
Alvarez raked in the ALCS, didn’t he? The 2019 AL Rookie of the Year bounced back in 2021 after a lost 2020 season, popping 33 homers in the middle of a strong Houston lineup, so he almost flew under the radar. There was no overlooking Alvarez in the ALCS, though. He drove home a run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning of Game 1 and recorded a single hit in each of the first three games. A nice warmup, they call it in Houston. The Astros won Games 4-5-6 by a combined score of 23-3 and Alvarez was 9-for-13 with five extra-base hits — three doubles, a triple and a home run. He sprayed the baseball all over the ballpark. Figuring him out is objective No. 1 for Atlanta’s pitchers.
Will Luke Jackson be effective in high-leverage situations?
Atlanta’s primary bullpen pieces looked downright dominant in the NLCS against a very patient but potent Dodgers lineup. That’s good for Braves fans, because the Astros have a lineup full of patient, potent hitters. A.J. Minter, Will Smith and Jesse Chavez combined to throw 12 2/3 scoreless innings against L.A., allowing only four hits to go with 12 strikeouts. And we all saw Tyler Matzek’s mastery in Game 6. Wow. But what about Luke Jackson? He gave up the momentum-shifting three-run homer to Cody Bellinger in Game 4 and looked like a pitching machine lobbing meatballs to the plate when he was out there again in Game 6. He made four appearances in the NLCS; of the 15 batters he faced, 10 reached base and five scored. Yikes. Thing is, though, if the Braves are going to survive a seven-game series against the Astros, they need Jackson to pitch like he did in the regular season, when he fashioned a 1.98 ERA and 9.9 strikeouts per nine pitching important innings late in games.
Stats that matter
3.16, 185, 3.5. Those are the ERA, strikeout total and bWAR for Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros’ best starting pitcher. He missed the ALCS with an injury, and he’s out for the World Series, too. That’s a tall task, replacing a staff ace on short notice in October. The Astros did a good job closing out the ALCS — Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia, in particular, were dominant in their second starts — but surviving a second consecutive best-of-seven series without McCullers will be tough. Houston does have some pitching depth, but we’ll see how the Astros fare against a strong Atlanta lineup.
Braves vs. Astros prediction
Look, these probably aren’t the teams most fans outside Atlanta or Houston wanted to see in the World Series. But if you can get past that disappointment, this should be a highly entertaining series. Both lineups are deep, with power throughout. Both pitching staffs are solid, with strikeout guys in the bullpens. The Braves get the tiniest of nods.
Prediction: Atlanta in 7