The oddsmakers are with the “villain” in the 2021 World Series, with the line leaning heavily to the Houston Astros in their matchup with the Atlanta Braves.
The has been a tightening of the World Series odds at some sportsbooks. PointsBet, for example, adjusted to Astros -140/Braves +120 on Monday after showing -150/+130 earlier in the day. DraftKings is dealing Astros -150/Braves +130 as of this post.
World Series Game 1 Odds And Pitching Matchup
World Series Game 1 is set for Tuesday night (8:09 p.m. ET, Fox).
Outside of the betting action, which includes a possible $35.6 million payout to Houston furniture store owner Jim McIngvale, the Fall Classic features several storylines.
The Astros are the team nearly everyone loves to hate. In 2019, one of their former players, Mike Fiers, blew the whistle on a sign-stealing scheme the Astros used during the 2017 season when they won the World Series. The fallout led to the firing of Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow but also revealed use of electronic devices by other teams to steal signs. Baseball has tried to move on from that controversy, but some fans have not. Those fans will be jeering and tweeting their displeasure throughout this series.
But lost in that somewhat overblown controversy is the fact that the Astros are one of the most talented teams in recent memory. They’ve now advanced to five consecutive League Championship Series, and this is their third World Series appearance in five seasons.
The ‘Stros have defeated the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees in the postseason in recent years, vanquishing the other contenders for “Team of the Era.” They are the most successful team since the 2010-2014 Giants, and arguably more talented.
The Astros have the most powerful lineup we’ve seen since the Big Red Machine was chugging along in the 1970s. In 2021, they led MLB in runs scored, and they’ve proved how dangerous they are in the playoffs, scoring five runs or more in nine of their 10 games. In October, five runs is like an avalanche. The lineup is relentless and deeper than any we’ve seen in a long time.
With former MVP Jose Altuve, shortstop extraordinaire Carlos Correa, line-drive-hitting Michael Brantley, ALCS MVP Yordan Álvarez, former postseason MVP Alex Bregman, batting champ Yuli Gurriel, and future superstar Kyle Tucker, Houston has threats through the first seven spots of their lineup, and the results show it. They’ve scored nine runs in five of their games this postseason.
Should Houston win the ’21 Series, they will place themselves alongside the other great teams of the last 40-50 years. Winning a championship today is harder than it ever has been, with the layers of playoffs and more hard-fought October baseball. Three pennants in five years and a pair of titles is like winning back-to-back titles back in the day. Since 1993, only the late-1990s Yankees have done ever that.
Braves Bullpen Holds The Key
Atlanta has shown this October its starting rotation will not get the Braves deep into games. Only Max Fried has managed a start where he pitched into the sixth inning. The team has relied heavily on its bullpen, and for the most part, it’s worked.
In the NLDS against the Brewers and NLCS against the Dodgers, four relievers (Will Smith, Jesse Chavez, Tyler Matzek, and A.J. Minter) pitched a combined 29 innings and allowed just two runs. Manager Brian Snitker has asked that quartet to get about nine outs per game. They’ve been brilliant, but can they keep it up?
A pitcher’s arm gets wearier as the season drags on and the leaves change color. Plus, if the starters keep leaving games in the third, fourth, or fifth, eventually the bullpen will break, even if it’s other guys trying to serve as a bridge to the Braves’ Four Tops.
Superstar Comparison: Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa
Every World Series has superstars. The marquee players for this matchup are Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and Houston shortstop Carlos Correa. Of all the players on both rosters, these two are most likely to one day give a speech in Cooperstown. But they couldn’t be more different.
Freeman is a wildly popular, big-grinning first baseman, who fits in nicely as this generation’s Chipper Jones: the face of the franchise.
Correa, born Puerto Rico, represents the shift in MLB personality away from the stodgy “old school” methods to a younger, high-energy attitude. Correa is not brash, he’s fun. He’s not unsportsmanlike, he’s competitive. He has his detractors, but Correa’s heart is in the right place. He’s a respected team leader who respects the game, but he also believes it can be played with passion without showing up the opposition. In the NLCS he pimped a home run, but a few days later when his celebration was mocked by an opposing player, Correa applauded the expression of emotion. This is a guy who is far less A-Rod and much more Derek Jeter.
For the first time on this large a stage, Freeman has a chance to display his hitting prowess to the nation. He’s a well-rounded offensive player, a former MVP, and a perpetual batting title contender, but he still needs a coming out party.
Houston, We Have a Pitching Problem
Ace Lance McCullers Jr. is out for the season with a forearm injury. The void left has been filled ably by Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia, a rookie who shook off nerves and dominated the Red Sox in Game 6 of the ALCS.
Normally there would be cause for panic, and the media will tell you that’s the case, in this era when every pitching matchup is overanalyzed. But the Astros have such a great offense they can pound the Braves into submission even if their starters slip a bit here and there.
Don’t count out veteran Zack Greinke, who had a solid season for the team until August when he was sidelined by COVID-19. Greinke hasn’t pitched deep into a game in a while, but this is one of the best pitchers of his generation, and he’s only two years removed from pitching brilliantly in Game 7 of the World Series. He won’t likely give his manager six or seven innings, or even five, but Greinke can still confound batters, especially ones who haven’t seen him much recently.
The Ballad of Johnnie B. Baker
Houston manager Dusty Baker played his first professional baseball game more than five decades ago. His first game in the majors came in a Braves uniform, and he was a teammate of Henry Aaron. He got his first hit when he was 19, and he was on deck when Aaron hit his record-setting 715th home run.
Baker has been there, done that. He’s the Forrest Gump of baseball. He played for Smokey Alston, who managed Jackie Robinson. He was an MVP in the playoffs for the Dodgers. He stole 20 bases and hit 20 homers in the same season. He was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove. Heck, he may have even invented the high-five.
Baker is the only manager to lead five franchises to division titles. He’s one of only 10 managers to win a pennant in both leagues. He’s closing in on 2,000 managerial wins in the regular season. He chews on a toothpick and wears wristbands like no other. He is the coolest of cool, and at 72, he has a chance to finally win a World Series as a manager.
Hate the Astros or not, but Baker is one of the good guys in baseball, and this World Series is better for him being in uniform.
Why Houston Will Win the World Series
- Runs, runs, runs. The Astros are averaging 6.7 runs per game this postseason.
- The Astros put the ball in play more often than the Braves, and they have scored a record number of two-out runs this playoff season.
- Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia will not shrink in the glare of the World Series.
- Houston is superior defensively and much better on the bases than Atlanta.
- Catcher Martín Maldonado blocks pitches and cuts down the running game.
Why Atlanta Will Win the World Series
- Max Fried and Charlie Morton return to past October performance levels.
- The Braves bullpen continues its unbelievable success this postseason.
- Freddie Freeman and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario go crazy at the plate, and Atlanta, which hit 239 homers in the regular season, outslugs Houston.