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What to expect from World Series Game 1 between the Braves and Astros

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How will this year's World Series play out? Using the Dynasty League Baseball online simulation, USA TODAY Sports' Steve Gardner and DLB designer Mike Cieslinski will pre-play each game to provide some insight into the key matchups and strategy fans can expect to see in the Fall Classic.

Sim Series Game 1: Freeman comes up clutch for Atlanta

Freddie Freeman's two-out, two-run single in the top of the eighth inning propelled the Atlanta Braves to a thrilling 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 1 of USA TODAY Sports' annual Simulated World Series.

Thanks to their 14 hits and six walks off Astros pitchers, the Braves had several opportunities to break the game open. But they trailed 3-2 in the eighth when Freeman came to the plate against lefty reliever Brooks Raley with two outs and the bases loaded.

The 2020 NL MVP drilled a sharp single to right that scored Travis d'Arnaud and Joc Pederson with the tying and go-ahead runs.

A screenshot of Freddie Freeman's two-out, two-run single that turned a 3-2 Braves deficit into a 4-3 lead over the Astros in Game 1 of the 2021 Simulated World Series.
A screenshot of Freddie Freeman's two-out, two-run single that turned a 3-2 Braves deficit into a 4-3 lead over the Astros in Game 1 of the 2021 Simulated World Series.

BOX SCORE: Braves 6, Astros 3

FULL PLAY-BY-PLAY: Braves score all six runs in Game 1 with two outs

Astros center fielder Chas McCormick nearly put his team ahead in the bottom of the eighth, but his deep fly ball down the left field line with two men on base hooked just foul. Braves reliever Jesse Chavez (1-0) got him to fly out to left on the next pitch to end the threat.

Atlanta starter Charlie Morton allowed three runs and pitched into the seventh inning before Chavez gave up a sacrifice fly to Jose Altuve that gave the Astros the lead. However, the Houston bullpen allowed four runs to score in the final two innings, with Raley absorbing the loss.

What to watch in (the actual) Game 1

Two-out magic: The Astros have been magicians this postseason coming up with the clutch hits with two outs and runners in scoring position. In those situations coming into the World Series, Houston was 22-for-47 (.468) with 10 extra-base hits and a stunning 36 RBI.

However, in Sim Series Game 1, the Braves turned the tables. They scored all six of their runs with two outs, going 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position. (Dynasty league Baseball gives extra weight to players who have performed well during the regular season with two outs and runners in scoring position, with those players earning a "Clutch" rating.) The Braves have five Clutch hitters on their roster, including Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley, who hit second, third and fourth in the order. Those three drove in five of Atlanta's six runs in the opener -- again, all with two outs.

Starters going deep: This postseason has been a showcase for poor starting pitching, with the collective average just over four innings per outing. Operating on full rest, both Sim Series starters in Game 1 made it at least into the sixth inning.

Another positive sign is that both Charlie Morton of the Braves and Framber Valdez of the Astros also had reverse splits this season, meaning they had better results against opposite-side hitters.

Morton's .188 batting average allowed to left-handed hitters was third-lowest in the majors among qualified starters. And Valdez, a southpaw, allowed a .219/.305/.321 slash line to right-handed hitters during the regular season. He will also have a platoon advantage against three key left-handed hitters on the Braves: Freeman, Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario.

The one potential danger spot for Valdez is the switch-hitting Albies, who crushed left-handed pitching in 2021 to the tune of a .323/.354/.585 slash line.

Return of the stolen base? Even before the World Series begins, there have already been more successful stolen bases this postseason than there were in the entire expanded 2020 playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers led the way with 16 in 12 games, but the Astros (7) and Braves (5) are next on the list.

Both Game 1 starters are susceptible to the running game, with their slow deliveries to the plate making them among the worst in the majors in preventing steals. In addition, Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud threw out only five of 31 runners attempting to steal, which gives those on base an extra advantage.

Bullpen magic: The Braves bullpen has been solid throughout the playoffs, and it was stellar again in the Sim Series opener. Jesse Chavez did not allow a home run in 33 2/3 regular-season innings. Closer Will Smith held opposing hitters to a .198 average, and was even better in high-leverage situations. They combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings with Chavez getting the win and Smith the save in Sim Series Game 1.

2021 Sim Series results

GAME 1: Braves 6, Astros 3

GAME 2: Astros 5, Braves 1

GAME 3: Braves 3, Astros 2

GAME 4: Braves 12, Astros 7

GAME 5: Astros 3, Braves 2

GAME 6: Braves 10, Astros 2

Simulate your own World Series. Get a FREE one-month subscription to Dynasty League Baseball online by going to DynastyLeagueBaseball.com, selecting the monthly option and entering code USA2 at checkout.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: World Series Game 1 simulation: Braves edge Astros after clutch hits

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