HOUSTON (AP) — At this point, they’re all fried.
Starters, openers, closers and the rest of them. So many pitching changes by the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of who’s on the mound.
“Everybody that’s in the World Series right now is gassed, everybody,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said during Monday’s day off. “Both teams, all the players. It’s been a long year.”
Fortunately for him, he can now give the ball to Max Fried.
With five full days of rest, the 27-year-old lefty will start Game 6 on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park as Atlanta again tries to win its first championship since 1995. The Braves missed a major chance Sunday night, wasting an early four-run lead at home in what became a 9-5 loss that cut their lead to three games to two.
Luis Garcia starts for Houston. For how long, we’ll see.
It’ll be a big ask for the AL Rookie of the Year candidate as he’ll start on just three days’ rest.
“We think that he’s the best for the job. We realize that he has a short leash, but then everybody out there has a short leash and operating on low rest or not full rest,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Not a surprise considering both teams have employed at least five pitchers in every game so far.
Houston relievers Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek each have worked four times. Teammates Kendall Graveman, Brooks Raley and Yimi García have been summoned three times apiece.
Braves relievers Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson, A.J. Minter and Will Smith all have three appearances already.
They’re fighting fatigue — and the familiarity hitters now have with their repertoires. But that’s how it adds up when there’s such a premium on finding the proper edge every inning. Many people play a role in factoring those equations.
“The organization gets together because we have quite a few pitching guys here in the analytics department, and it’s probably bigger on the pitching side of things, bullpen side of things, matchup side of things,” Baker said.
“We have charts and things … pocket sheets and stuff that we have to decipher and use at our discretion,” he said.
Garcia pitched into the fourth inning of Game 3 Friday night at Atlanta in a 2-0 loss, allowing one run and three hits. He needed 72 pitches to go that far, walking four and striking out six.
The 24-year-old righty won the clinching Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, blanking Boston on one hit over 5 2/3 innings. He said he had no concerns about pitching on short rest.
Other than condensing his workload, “nothing has changed. I just want to do my thing,” he said.
Fried excelled in going 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA during the regular season and was sharp against Milwaukee in the NL Division Series and the opener of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But he hasn’t looked anything like that lately.
With a chance to send the Braves to the World Series, and pitching in front of family and friends at Dodger Stadium, he got tagged for five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings of Game 5.
He wasn’t any better in Game 2 at Houston last Wednesday, allowing six runs and seven hits in five innings.
“I think he’s been off a little bit the last couple times, hasn’t been himself,” Snitker said.
“I expect to see Max on top of his game tomorrow. I expect that every time he goes out. I mean, this guy probably, since the All-Star break, is one of the best pitchers in the game. So that’s kind of the version of Max that I expect to see tomorrow,” he said.
If it goes to Game 7, Ian Anderson would start for Atlanta. He pitched five hitless innings, then was pulled from his start in Game 3 Friday night.
“We’re in a good spot right now with Ian on tap,” Snitker said.
Fried would prefer to end things himself and give the Braves a whole winter to rest up as champs.
“Any time that you go out there and you don’t perform the way that you want, you don’t win, you want to go back out there and redeem yourself,” he said. “It’s probably going to be my last outing of the year, so there’s nothing to hold back.”
Atlanta Braves (88-73, first in the NL East) vs. Houston Astros (95-67, first in the AL West)
Houston; Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. EDT
PITCHING PROBABLES: Braves: Max Fried (1-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 158 strikeouts this postseason) Astros: Luis Garcia (1-2, 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 167 strikeouts this postseason)
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Astros -124, Braves +106; over/under is 9 runs
WORLD SERIES: Atlanta leads the series 3-2
BOTTOM LINE: Atlanta will look to clinch a championship with a win over Houston in Game 6.
The Astros were 51-30 in home games in 2021. Houston has a team slugging percentage of .403 this postseason, Yordan Alvarez leads them with a mark of .600, including eight extra base hits and nine RBIs.
The Braves were 46-35 on the road in 2021. Atlanta has a team batting average of .248 this postseason, Eddie Rosario has led them with an average of .411, including seven extra base hits and 11 RBIs.
The Astros won the last meeting 9-5. Jose Urquidy earned his second victory this postseason and Carlos Correa went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs for Houston. A.J. Minter registered his first loss of the postseason for Atlanta.
TOP PERFORMERS: Yordan Alvarez leads the Astros with 33 home runs and has 104 RBIs.
Ozzie Albies leads the Braves with 77 extra base hits and 106 RBIs.
DURING THE PLAYOFFS: Astros: .265 batting average, 4.26 ERA, outscored opponents by 23 runs
Braves: .248 batting average, 3.50 ERA, outscored opponents by five runs
INJURIES: Astros: Justin Verlander: (elbow), Andre Scrubb: (shoulder), Rafael Montero: (shoulder), Tyler Ivey: (undisclosed), Kent Emanuel: (elbow), Pedro Baez: (shoulder), Freudis Nova: (knee), Taylor Jones: (covid-19), Jason Castro: (covid-19 protocols).
Braves: Josh Tomlin: (neck), Mike Soroka: (achilles), Charlie Morton: (fibula), Grant Dayton: (shoulder), Marcell Ozuna: (hand), Ronald Acuna Jr.: (knee).