While the Atlanta Braves have been the class of the NL East for the vast majority of the last three decades, they are making their first World Series appearance since 1999. It’s been a long time coming for the Braves, who were going nowhere at the midway point of the season but have turned out to be one of the best teams in baseball over the last three months. After taking out the Brewers and the Dodgers, Atlanta’s biggest test will be the Astros in the World Series.
Preview: Five keys for Braves in World Series
It’s worth noting that the Braves are betting underdogs heading into the World Series. That doesn’t mean they have to be perfect to beat Houston, but they will need a lot to go their way.
Let’s take a look at the five biggest keys to success for the Braves in the 2021 World Series.
Atlanta’s rotation has been whittled down to three starters, which means Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, and Max Fried will all have to make two starts with the Braves likely to have a bullpen game at some point.
Outside of a couple of games, all three have been good during the postseason. The Braves will need that to continue and they’ll need all three pitchers to go deep into games. Against Houston’s potent lineup, traversing the batting order multiple times can be easier said than done, so it’ll be a challenge for Atlanta’s starters to keep the Braves in every game.
Eddie Rosario staying hot
Eddie Rosario became the latest surprise hero of the MLB postseason during the NLCS.
In 10 playoff games, he’s hitting .474 with a 1.313 OPS. He was a huge reason why the Braves were able to beat the Dodgers, so naturally, they need him to keep it going.
Of course, Freddie Freeman will be a key figure to watch. But Rosario was Atlanta’s biggest catalyst during the NLCS when things were going well, so Rosario staying hot will be critical to Atlanta’s success.
Contain the running game
The Dodgers were able to take certain liberties in the running game against Travis d’Arnaud, who struggled to throw out base runners.
While the Braves overcame that in the NLCS, it’s another potential problem. Granted, the Astros aren’t built on speed, but they have enough players who can swipe a base if you let them. It’ll be up to Atlanta’s pitchers to do more to protect d’Arnaud and prevent the Astros from stealing bases.
Atlanta’s lineup looks settled, but they haven’t gotten much from their bench during the postseason. Jorge Soler returning should force one regular to the bench and give Atlanta one capable pinch-hitter.
But the Braves will likely need more of their reserves to come up with big hits late in games, especially during the three games in Atlanta when there will be no DH and the Braves will be expected to win.
The middle infield
Albies has an OPS of .629 while Swanson’s OPS is .500 through 10 playoff games.
Both need to do better if the Braves are going to win the World Series. When the Braves were hot during the second half of the season, Albies and Swanson were right there with Freeman and Austin Riley in terms of carrying the Atlanta lineup, so the Braves will need their two middle infielders to get hot during the Fall Classic.
Read more on the 2021 World Series in our MLB picks.