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World Series Games 4 and 5 open thread

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Two games remain in Atlanta this weekend. The Astros will need to win at least one to send the series back to Houston.

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox
Former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke takes the ball for Houston tonight.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves, Game 4, 8:09 PM, FOX

In today’s version of “What’s Got Old-School Baseball Folks Up in Arms?”, the baseball media is abuzz with hot takes about the Braves’ decision to pull starter Ian Anderson after five hitless innings last night. Pundits are aghast that the Braves would take out a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter in the World Series when he had thrown just 76 pitches, proclaiming things like “starting pitching doesn’t seem to matter anymore!” and “analytics are ruining the game!” and “this is why baseball is dying!”

I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily have taken out Anderson that early, but let’s slow our roll, okay? While he hadn’t allowed a hit, he wasn’t exactly dominating. He’d walked three batters and plunked another, and he’d thrown just 39 strikes to 37 balls. There was no chance he was going to pitch all nine innings to complete the no-no, so does it really matter which inning he was pulled? He wasn’t going to be the next Don Larsen. At most, I’d give him a chance to pitch the sixth inning, but the sooner you can get to that dominant Atlanta bullpen — especially in a one-run game — the better. In the end, all that matters is that the Braves’ strategy played out perfectly. The relief corps threw four scoreless frames to seal a 2-0 win, giving Atlanta a 2-1 series lead with two more home games to go.

Those lamenting the irrelevance of starting pitchers, though, will have more grist for the mill in Games 4 and 5, as the Braves plan on using a “bullpen game” for both. Tonight they’ll start with 27-year-old rookie left-hander Dylan Lee, who has pitched just four games in his MLB career — two in the regular season, one in the NLCS, and one in Game 2 of this World Series, all in relief. This is probably not the situation he thought he’d be in when the Miami Marlins released him this March, but hey, good for him.

The Astros will counter tonight with future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke, the most high-profile pitcher on the Houston roster, who thus far has been mostly irrelevant this postseason. He’s pitched just twice, with one scoreless relief inning in the ALDS and a truncated 1.1-inning start in the ALCS. Greinke is one of my favorite players in MLB, so it’d be nice to see him win the first World Series of his 18-year career, even if I’m not jazzed about the Astros being the team to do it.

Game 4 lineups

Astros:

2B Jose Altuve
RF Michael Brantley
3B Alex Bregman
LF Yordan Alvarez
SS Carlos Correa
CF Kyle Tucker
1B Yuli Gurriel
P Zack Greinke
C Martin Maldonado

Interestingly, Dusty Baker is using Greinke — a lifetime .225 hitter, pretty good for a pitcher — in the #8 spot, ahead of the light-hitting Maldonado. For what it’s worth, Greinke has a higher career OPS+ (60) than Maldonado does this season (58). With the universal DH likely on the way next season, Greinke may well be the last pitcher ever to bat eighth in a lineup.

Braves:

LF Eddie Rosario
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Ozzie Albies
3B Austin Riley
RF Joc Pederson
C Travis d’Arnaud
CF Adam Duvall
SS Dansby Swanson
P Dylan Lee

After a night off in Game 3, “Joctober” is back in the lineup in right field. He’ll be donning a brand new pearl necklace, rushed in from his jeweler this morning after his previous one broke. This is the kind of content you’re here for.

Regardless of who wins tonight, we’re assured of a Game 5 tomorrow night, also at 8 pm. Neither team has announced a starting pitcher for that game as yet. Join us right back here for the action.