The Atlanta Braves of the National League and Houston Astros of the American League are set to face off in the 2021 World Series beginning on Tuesday night.
Houston will host Games 1 and 2 at Minute Maid Park with the series shifting to Atlanta’s Truist Park for Games 4, 5, and if necessary, Game 6. The Fall Classic would then shift back to Houston for a Game 6 and 7 if either of those become necessary.
Atlanta won 88 games in the regular season, easily the lowest total for any of Major League Baseball’s six division winners. However, it was enough to capture their 16th NL East Division crown. In the NLDS, the Braves downed the 95-win Milwaukee Brewers in four games after dropping that series opener. Then in the NLCS, Atlanta captured the 18th National League pennant in franchise history by fighting off the defending world champions, the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers, in six games.
Houston won 95 games to capture their fourth AL West Division title in the last five years. The Astros then powered past the Chicago White Sox in four games in an ALDS before fighting off the Boston Red Sox in six games in the ALCS. Houston had fallen behind Boston by 2-1 in that series, but outscored the Bosox by a composite 23-3 margin in sweeping the final three games.
These are two teams who clearly deserve to be here. Atlanta and Houston have proven themselves through both the long war of the regular season and then once again in the crucible of October postseason baseball.
For Atlanta, this will be the club’s first appearance in the World Series since 1999. That makes the Braves the last NL East Division team to reach the championship in the 21st century. It also makes the National League East the first division in which all member teams have appeared in the World Series in this century.
This will mark the fourth World Series appearance for Houston, their third in the last five years as American League champions. The Astros also reached the Fall Classic back in 2005 representing the National League.
Atlanta’s undisputed leader is 32-year-old first baseman Freddie Freeman. The club’s 2nd round MLB Draft pick all the way back in 2007, Freeman was the 2020 NL MVP and has been a five-time NL All-Star as well as two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a Gold Glover. Freeman slashed .300/.393/.503 this season with 31 homers, 83 RBIs, and an NL-leading 120 runs scored.
“Going from 97 losses six years ago to doing this, it’s special, and to lose, in my opinion, the best player in the National League and we’re up here going to the World Series without Ronald Acuña Jr., It’s amazing what this team did.” ~ Freeman
Houston’s leader is 31-year-old second baseman Jose Altuve. Signed by the Astros organization out of his native Venezuela in 2007, the diminutive Altuve became the 2017 AL MVP and has been a seven-time AL All-Star as well a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a Gold Glover. Altuve slashed.278/.350/.489 this year with 31 homers, 83 RBIs, and 117 runs scored.
Many teams would have folded it up and called it a season after losing their most dynamic player, as Atlanta did all the way back at the All-Star Game break in mid-July with the loss of Ronald Acuna, Jr. Instead, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled a series of aggressive moves before the trade deadline that not only shored up manager Brian Snitker’s lineup but revitalized it. From August 1 onward, Atlanta had the best record in baseball. So, it’s difficult to pick against them. And yet, I’m going to do just that.
The Astros have one of the most dynamic offensive lineups that baseball has seen in some time. Any one of Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker, or ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez could take home the World Series MVP Award. And manager Dusty Baker’s pitching staff is loaded with power arms that are capable of shutting down any opposing lineup, as Boston learned in the final three games of that ALCS. Call it Houston in five games.