Starting Monday, the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves will play a two-game interleague series at Truist Park in Cobb County. As well as giving us revenge for the 1957, 1958, 1996 and 1999 World Series – those first two when the Braves were still in Milwaukee – this one also promises some exciting, high-stakes baseball here and now. Monday’s game also brings a rarity in Major League Baseball.
So, to set the scene for what could indeed be a preview of the 2021 World Series, let’s lay out a few essentials ahead of the series opening on Monday.
On Monday: Jordan Montgomery (NYY) vs. Huascar Ynoa (ATL) | 7:20 p.m. ET | TV: MLB Network | Live Streaming: fuboTV (try for free)
Tuesday: Andrew Heaney (NYY) vs. Charlie Morton (ATL) | 7:20 p.m. ET | TV: MLB Network | Live Streaming: fuboTV (try for free)
Host Braves draws a pair of left-handed starters, while the Yankees will face right-handed players in every game. It’s worth noting that so far in 2021, the Braves rank sixth in the NL in OPS compared to the left-handed pitcher. The Yankees, meanwhile, sit ninth in the AL this season in OPS against the righties. That said, the deadline additions from left-handed Purifiers Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo certainly improve the Yanks on that front.
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As for the Braves, Tuesday’s game certainly seems to favor them. Morton may have been their best starting pitcher in 2021, while Heaney has struggled a lot this season for the Yankees and Angels (5.86 ERA and just eight quality starts in 22 chances). Heaney, however, has just made a solid outing against the Red Sox.
It’s a shock of suitors
The Braves have taken the lead in the NL East and now lead the division by five games against the Phillies, and despite some struggles early on, they look like a solid bet to win the division for a fourth straight year. As for the Yankees, their boom in the second half propelled them into the first wild card position of the AL. The margins are tight, however, as the A’s, Red Sox and Mariners are not far behind. New York, however, still has plans for the AL East title as they drag the Rays out of the top spot by 4 1/2 games ahead of Monday’s roster.
Both teams are hot
Particularly noteworthy is that the Yankees and the Braves the two enter this series with nine consecutive winning streaks. This, as you might expect, makes this series a historic rarity. Teams with winning streaks of at least nine games haven’t met since 1901 in MLB:
Astonishing conclusion: One of these teams will enter the series final on Tuesday on a 10-game winning streak. More generally, the Yankees enter Monday’s tilt after going 17-4 in August and 26-9 since the second half. As late as July 4, the Yankees were a .500 team, and now they’re 20 games out of .500. As for the Braves, they are 16-3 in August and 24-11 since the break. They were one game below 0.500 on August 3.
As you can probably understand, these streaks dramatically improved both teams’ chances in the playoffs. Here’s how the SportsLine projection system sees its playoff chances evolving over the past two weeks:
The needle has moved in a huge way for both teams.
Freeman and Voit are on the rise
The recent performances of the first basemen are linked to the recent fortunes of both teams. Freddie Freeman, the reigning National League MVP, in the Braves’ recent run hit .421 / .488 / .789 with seven more hits. In August, Freeman shows a slash of .351 / .407 / .571, and in the second half, those numbers are .364 / .433 / .583.
As for Voit, he struggled for much of the season before moving to IL in mid-July with an inflamed knee. Since returning on August 8, Voit has found his level, then some with a line of 0.320 / 0.370 / 0.620, and he has increased his OPS by almost 100 points over that time. The question for the Yankees over the next couple of games is how and if they put Voir in the lineup. In Atlanta, they won’t have DH available to them, which means Voit or Rizzo will be sitting. Given Rizzo’s defensive advantage over Voit and the fact that the Yankees will face a pair of right-handed starters, Voit and his sizzling bat could be relegated to a pinch duty. This, suffice it to say, will go well with the Braves.
So, if Voit is on the bench, maybe the Yankees fans can put their hopes on Giancarlo Stanton, who enters this series after reaching base 19 games in a row.