There is an old adage in baseball about momentum: “A team’s momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.”
I mention this after a chat Ross Grimsley and I had with former Orioles manager Dave Trembley. When the subject turned to which team he thought would win tonight’s game, Trembley said he liked the Braves’ pitching and mentioned that lefty Max Fried had more quality starts than all but four pitchers in 2021.
I bring this up a few hours before the first pitch of Game 6 because I looked up Fried’s numbers for the season to try to figure out which way this game will go. And while they don’t blow you away, a dive into his numbers seems to predict that if the Astros think they’ll repeat the results they had against in him in Game 2, they are probably mistaken.
Fried was 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 2021. His second and third starts of the season (a total of six innings and 12 earned runs) left his ERA at 11.45. After that, Fried was placed on the injured list with a hamstring strain. He looked like himself after the IL trip. In his final 25 starts of the season, Fried posted a 2.44 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.
Fried allowed six earned runs in five innings of work during his Game 2 start against the Astros. However, he didn’t allow a home run and did strike out six batters while walking only one.
This isn’t to say that Houston can’t beat Fried. As the Astros showed in Game 2, they can beat you with a thousand small cuts. But again, the odds are that Fried learned a good bit about what he needs to do for much smoother sailing in tonight’s game.
The flip side of the coin is that the Astros are turning to Luis Garcia for a start on short rest after he allowed one run in 3.2 innings in Game 3. Garcia had a terrific regular season and should be in the hunt for AL Rookie of the Year (11-8 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP). He also struck out 167 batters in 155.1 innings.
However, his postseason numbers have been unsteady, to say the least. In 13 innings this postseason, Garcia has allowed 11 earned runs (7.62 ERA) and walked 11 batters. Most of the damage came in his first two starts of the postseason. He allowed five runs in 2.2 innings in Game 3 of the ALDS and five runs in one inning of work in Game 2 of the ALCS.
Garcia mitigated those disasters when he tossed 5.2 scoreless innings in Game 6 of the ALCS, which helped send the Astros to their third World Series in five years.
But at this moment in time, despite the appearance of some Astros momentum, I am going to say my chips are in on six-plus innings tonight of really solid low-scoring ball by Fried to pave the way for the 2021 pennant to fly in Atlanta.