The Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves will continue the 2021 World Series on Friday, beginning a stretch where they'll play three games in three nights. The meat of a seven-game series always tests the depth and the resiliency of pitching staffs. It stands to reason these games in this particular series will be more grueling than normal given how dependent both teams have been on their bullpens this postseason.
With that in mind, let's use this travel day to examine the state of both pitching staffs.
The Astros will start rookie Luis Garcia in Game 3. Garcia, of course, has been dealing with a knee issue that forced an early departure from an ALCS start. He returned later in the series and delivered a masterful performance, suggesting he's now OK physically.
Still, that's an aspect worth watching since Garcia's wellbeing could dictate whether or not the Astros have to use Jake Odorizzi in relief. Odorizzi is expected to start Game 4 for the Astros, though they could change plans and either employ a bullpen game or ask Game 1 starter Framber Valdez to pitch on short rest.
As for that bullpen, the Astros used only one reliever in both Games 1 and 2: Phil Maton. He figures to be available for Game 3 after the day off. Manager Dusty Baker did break out the "A" team as part of Wednesday's victory, enabling Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman to make their series debuts.
Baker also asked Cristian Javier, Houston's capable multi-inning arm, to notch four outs. Javier figures to factor into either Game 3 or 4, depending on how Garcia and Odorizzi perform.
Comparatively, the Braves have more question marks facing their pitching staff. Ian Anderson will start Game 3, but it's an open question after that. The Braves used their prospective Games 4 and 5 starters, Kyle Wright and Drew Smyly, in a relief capacity on Wednesday. They combined for 35 pitches, suggesting they could still be available to start or provide length, albeit perhaps with some pitch-count restrictions.
Manager Brian Snitker, for his part, conceded the importance of the bullpen after Game 2. "The bullpen's going to play a big part obviously in what we've got going on because we lost a huge starter," he said. "So, we're going to have probably two games in a row that we're going to have to -- we're going to pitch 18 innings out of that bullpen.
The only Braves reliever whose availability is up in the air heading into Game 3 is lefty A.J. Minter after he threw 43 pitches in Atlanta's series-opening victory. Snitker deployed Minter in a similar capacity during the 2020 NLCS: Minter threw 42 pitches as part of a three-inning spot-start, and he then returned for a relief outing after a day of rest. Snitker might be willing to do the same here.
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