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USATSI

The Houston Astros defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the 2021 World Series on Wednesday night, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Starting with Friday night's Game 3, the next three games of the Fall Classic will be played at Truist Park in Atlanta, and underneath the governing rules of the National League. That last part is worth noting because it inconveniences the Astros, a team built with the designated hitter in mind. 

The conflict manager Dusty Baker has to solve is how to deploy Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, and Kyle Tucker without the DH spot. Alvarez's play in the outfield was one of the Astros' X-factors CBS Sports' Dayn Perry explored in further detail here. Normally, Baker would be able to plop down Alvarez at DH and have Brantley and Tucker split the corners. That option won't be available to him over the next three games.

Instead, Baker will have to choose one of the these four routes:

  1. Sit Alvarez
  2. Sit Brantley
  3. Sit Tucker
  4. Play all three in the outfield

Alvarez is in the Astros' lineup as the left fielder for Game 3, and it should not come as a huge surprise. Baker showed a willingness to play the Alvarez-Tucker-Brantley outfield the regular season. The Astros dialed up an Alvarez-Tucker-Brantley arrangement in the outfield to start three games, all in NL parks. Alas, that option maximizes the Astros' offensive potential while compromising their defense. Baker could opt for Chas McCormick or Jose Siri in center later in the games at Truist Park as a means of helping out Houston's pitching staff.

It's clear that the Astros think Brantley is the better fielder. More than 70 percent of Alvarez's regular-season starts this year were in a hitting-only capacity. Moreover, when Alvarez did start in left, it was often because Brantley was on the injured list. It's also clear that Alvarez is the better hitter -- if he wasn't, this wouldn't be difficult.

The Astros do have a favorable pitching situation for their Game 3 outfield alignment. Houston starting pitcher Luis Garcia had the lowest percentage of batted balls hit to the left side of the field (around 25 percent) of any of the 92 pitchers who threw at least 2,000 offerings this season. If the Astros want to minimize Alvarez's fielding opportunities, a Garcia start would seem to make for a good pairing.

Besides, that's true in another sense. Garcia might not be the best matchup for the Braves' assortment of left-handed hitters, making it imperative that the Astros have as much firepower in their lineup as they can muster.

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