Starting Monday night, the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves will play a two-game interleague series at Truist Park. In addition to giving us a rematch of the 1957, 1958, 1996, and 1999 World Series -- those first two happened when the Braves were still in Milwaukee -- this one also promises some compelling, high-stakes baseball in the here and now. Monday's matchup also brings about a Major League Baseball rarity.
So to set the scene for what could indeed be a 2021 World Series preview, let's lay out some essentials in advance of Monday's series opener.
Monday: Jordan Montgomery (NYY) vs. Huascar Ynoa (ATL) | 7:20 p.m. ET | TV: MLB Network | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Tuesday: Andrew Heaney (NYY) vs. Charlie Morton (ATL) | 7:20 p.m. ET | TV: MLB Network | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
The host Braves draw a pair of lefty starters, while the Yankees will face right-handers in each game. Of note is that thus far in 2021 the Braves rank sixth in the NL in OPS vs. left-handed pitching. The Yankees, meantime, rank ninth in the AL this season in OPS against right-handers. That said, the deadline additions of lefty mashers Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo certainly improve the Yanks on this front.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
On the Braves' side of things, the Tuesday matchup certainly appears to favor them. Morton has perhaps been their top starting pitcher in 2021, while Heaney has struggled badly this season for the Yankees and Angels (5.86 ERA and just eight quality starts in 22 chances). Heaney is, however, coming off a strong outing against the Red Sox.
It's a clash of contenders
The Braves have taken charge in the NL East and now lead the division by five games over the Phillies, and despite some early struggles they look like a strong bet to win the division for a fourth straight year. As for the Yankees, their second-half boom has pushed them into the top wild card position in the AL. The margins are tight, though, as the A's, Red Sox, and Mariners aren't far behind. New York, though, still has designs on the AL East title, as they trail the first-place Rays by 4 1/2 games going into Monday's slate.
Both teams are hot
Especially notable is that the Yankees and Braves both come into this series riding nine-game winning streaks. That, as you might expect, makes this series a historic rarity. Teams riding winning streaks of at least nine games have not met since 1901 in MLB:
The Yankees and Braves are both on 9-game win streaks entering their game against each other on Monday.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 23, 2021
According to @EliasSports, this will be the 3rd game in MLB history in which both teams enter on 9-game win streaks (or better), and the 1st since 1901. pic.twitter.com/6V2lfdVPDV
Stunning conclusion: One of these teams will enter the Tuesday series finale on a 10-game winning streak. More broadly, the Yankees come into Monday's tilt having gone 17-4 in August and 26-9 since the second half. As recently as the Fourth of July, the Yankees were a .500 team, and now they're 20 games over .500. As for the Braves, they're 16-3 in August and 24-11 since the break. They were a game below .500 on Aug. 3.
As you can probably figure, these streaks have greatly improved the playoff odds of both teams. Here's how the SportsLine Projection System sees their postseason chances moving over the last two weeks:
|Team||SportsLine playoff odds on Aug. 9||SportsLine playoff odds on Aug. 23|
The needle, it hath moved in a big way for both teams.
Freeman and Voit are surging
Related to the recent fortunes of both teams are the recent performances of first basemen. Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman over the Braves' recent run has batted .421/.488/.789 with seven extra-base hits. In August Freeman boasts a slash line of .351/.407/.571, and in the second half those figures are .364/.433/.583.
As for Voit, he struggled for much of the season before going on the IL in mid-July with knee inflammation. Since returning on Aug. 8, Voit has found his level and then some with a line of .320/.370/.620, and he's lifted his season-long OPS by almost 100 points over that span. The question for the Yankees over the next two games is how and whether they wedge Voit into the lineup. In Atlanta, they won't have the DH at their disposal, which means either Voit or Rizzo will sit. Given Rizzo's defensive edge over Voit and the fact that the Yankees will be facing a pair of right-handed starters, Voit and his sizzling bat may be relegated to pinch-hitting duty. That, suffice it to say, will be fine with the Braves.
So if Voit's on the bench, perhaps Yankee partisans can pin their hopes on Giancarlo Stanton, who comes into this series having reached base 19 games in a row.