The Fall Classic has arrived and we couldn’t be more pumped.
Before we dive into tonight’s Game 1 pick, perhaps you’ll also want to check out a World Series Preview that includes a series prediction as well as some props bets worth a look. My favorite part of that whole preview is an MVP candidate holding big-time value at prevailing odds given the opportunity in front of him.
With that in mind, let’s dive into a Braves vs. Astros Game 1 World Series Pick from Minute Maid Park in Houston!
Braves vs. Astros World Series Game 1 Betting Odds
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
|Braves||+121||+1.5 (-166)||Over 8.5 (+100)|
|Astros||-131||-1.5 (+146)||Under 8n5 (-120)|
Braves vs. Astros World Series Game 1 Starting Pitching Breakdown
While the offense has been a big talking point for the Braves down the regular-season stretch given the collective contributions of some bold trade-deadline additions, it’s been the team’s pitching that’s gotten them to the World Series. After signing a one-year deal with the Braves early in free agency, Charlie Morton has pitched like an ace for the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2002 draft.
Morton took the ball 33 times this season and pitched 185.2 innings of 3.34 ERA/3.17 FIP ball alongside a 10.47 K/9 and 2.81 BB/9 while his 3.32 xERA, 3.31 xFIP and 3.53 SIERA are all in agreement on his excellent 2021 regular season.
He hasn’t been quite as sharp in these playoffs across three starts and 14.1 innings, but it’s been his control that’s mostly been off by way of a 5.02 BB/9. He’s still prevented runs at a healthy rate with a 3.77 ERA while he continues to rack up the strikeouts with an 11.93 K/9 to his credit.
The veteran has pitched well in the postseason throughout his career, and you might remember him pitching the final four innings in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series for these Astros. Morton owns a 3.45 ERA across 75.2 career postseason frames including 20 innings of six-run ball (2.70 ERA) as part of a Rays team that lost the World Series last year to the Dodgers. He’s not pitched postseason ball in each of the last five seasons.
The former Astro owns a career 3.95 ERA at Minute Maid Park across 38 starts and 214 innings of work, going 20-10 in the process.
Getting the nod for tonight’s Game 1 for the favorites is left-hander Framber Valdez who enjoyed a stellar campaign after getting a late start to a fracture on one of his left fingers around spring training.
Valdez pitched to a 3.14 ERA, although many of his peripherals are higher than that in the form of a 4.01 FIP, 3.78 xERA, 3.58 xFIP and 3.79 SIERA. While his strikeouts are decent at 8.35 K/9 and he can sometimes have issues with control with a 3.88 BB/9 on the season, Valdez gets his outs on the ground.
Of the pitchers that pitched at least 130 innings this season, Valdez’s 70.3% ground-ball rate was the highest in the Majors. It actually wasn’t even close as the Giants’ Logan Webb was second with a 60.9% mark, nearly a 10 percent separation. The plethora of ground-ball helped Valdez posted a strong 0.88 HR/9 despite a 44.4% hard-hit rate that ranked in the league’s 11th percentile.
He’s taken the ball three times for 15 innings in these playoffs and turned in a 4.20 ERA/4.57 FIP with a 1.20 HR/9 in that time despite a 72.1% ground-ball rate. He was particularly sharp his last outing when he hurled eight innings of one-run ball while allowing just three hits and a walk in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Red Sox.
Valdez pitched to 3.45 ERA/4.17 FIP at home this season, but also walked 4.88 batters per nine at Minute Maid Park, so the control needs to improve for this one tonight.
— MLB (@MLB) October 26, 2021
Offense and Bullpen Notes
The Braves’ offense wasn’t living up to expectations even before the club lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to a torn ACL and fellow outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a broken hand before a domestic violence incident closed the book on his season as well.
Those were two big-time bats removed from an elite 2020 Braves offense, so general manager Alex Anthopoulos went out an acquired a quartet of outfielders in the form of Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario. The Braves surged after those deals, although the offense in general wasn’t significantly improved as they finished the second half of the season 11th with a .326 wOBA, although the power was there by way of a .197 ISO that ranked fifth in the league.
I noted earlier that the Braves are largely here due to their pitching as their offense has averaged just four runs a game in these playoffs across 10 games, nearly a full run below their 4.88 runs-per-game average from the regular season.
The bullpen has been fantastic in these playoffs after an up-and-down regular season that saw them wind up in a share of 11th with a solid 3.97 ERA. That said, this group helped the Braves pitch a pair of shutouts while allowing just six runs total against the Brewers in the NLDS before holding a dangerous Dodgers lineup to two runs in three of their six games across the NLCS.
The group has found it’s rhythm at precisely the right time.
A top-two offense by many accounts from the regular season (along with the Blue Jays), the Astros’ offense has been an absolute force in these playoffs.
They’ve scored nine runs or more in four of their 10 games in these playoffs and at least five runs in nine of the 10 contests. They led baseball with 5.33 runs per game in the regular season, and their 6.70 runs per game in these playoffs is the foremost reason as to why they find themselves in the Fall Classic for the second time in five years.
When you have the NL batting champion in Yuli Gurriel hitting seventh in your lineup, it’s clear it’s a deep and dangerous group. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez have terrorized opposing pitching of late, and as I noted in my series preview, the key to success in this World Series is for the Astros’ bats to keep raking. If they go quiet, they’re in trouble.
As good as the offense has been, credit has to go to this rotation and bullpen as well. After the Red Sox hung 12 runs on the Astros to go up 2-1 in the ALCS, Houston pitching held a very good Red Sox offense to just three runs over the final three games of that series. Outside of another 12-run outburst in the ALDS from the White Sox, Astros pitching held a potent Chi Sox offense to a combined six runs in the other three contests.
It would appear that the blowups have skewed the numbers, but for the most part an Astros bullpen that finished the season in the middle of the pack with a 4.02 ERA has been quite reliable in these playoffs.
- Braves are 14-3 in their last 17 vs. a team with a winning record
- Braves are 7-2 in their last nine postseason games
- Braves are 5-2 in their last seven as an underdog
- Over is 4-1 in the Braves’ last five games overall
- Under is 5-1 in the Braves last six interleague road games
- Astros are 7-1 in their last eight games as a favorite
- Astros are 6-1 in their last seven home playoff games
- Astros are 5-1 in their last six interleague games
- Over is 8-1 in the Astros’ last nine games overall
- Over is 4-1 in the Astros’ last five games vs. a right-handed starter
Head to Head
- Astros are 5-0 in the last five meetings
- Under is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings
- Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings in Houston
Braves vs. Astros World Series Game 1 Pick
While the Astros’ offense is sizzling into this series, the Braves’ pitching has been flat-out fantastic in these playoffs and I’m willing to see if Morton and co. can continue that trend tonight.
I have more faith in Morton than I do Valdez here, and while the overall offense advantage undoubtedly is with the Astros, we’ve seen this staff get touched up more often than the Braves have in these playoffs.
While Houston went 51-30 at home this season, the Braves were a quality 46-35 on the road, a mark superior to their 42-38 mark at home. They know how to win on the road.
As a result, give me the Braves here to steal Game 1 on the moneyline.