2021 World Series: The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros Are Familiar Foes Even If This Is Their 1st Fall Classic Meeting

Article Highlights:

  • The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros have plenty of shared history entering the 2021 World Series
  • The two teams had regular postseason matchups when Houston still played in the National League
  • Neither side will be able to work off recent history against one another

It’s not often in sports when we can say that a championship matchup — in this case, the Atlanta Braves’ upcoming World Series showdown with the Houston Astros — is something we previously experienced in earlier rounds.

Well, if you like oddities, history, and not seeing the New York Yankees compete for a World Series title, then you should be especially grateful the Astros moved to the American League in 2013. This year’s Fall Classic will bring upon some nostalgic memories for those who grew up watching baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros had five postseason matchups when both were in the National League

For the first time in World Series history, we have two teams who previously faced each other in either the Wild Card-Game, Division Series, or League Championship Series. That is not a typo.

When the Astros moved to the AL in 2013, they became the second team in modern baseball history to switch leagues. The Milwaukee Brewers, their former NL Central rivals, transitioned from the AL to the NL in 1998. Before joining the AL West, though, the Astros had plenty of experience with the Braves and their Tomahawk Chop-gesturing fans.

From 1969-93, the Astros and Braves each resided in the NL West. Yes, an Atlanta-based team played in the West, and don’t ask why. It wasn’t until 1994, when each league added a Central division, that the Braves moved to the East, and Houston joined the Central.

Atlanta swept Houston in the 1997 NLDS and defeated them in four games two years later. The Braves, led by star third baseman Chipper Jones, pulled off another sweep in 2001.

Houston’s fortune changed in 2004. Switch-hitting All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, a midseason trade acquisition, hit .455 with four home runs and nine RBIs in the five-game series. Veteran first baseman Jeff Bagwell hit two home runs, and the Astros overcame Andruw Jones’ .526 average en route to winning the NLDS in five games.

The teams squared off one final time, once again in the NLDS, in October 2005. Atlanta went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and lost on Astros left fielder Chris Burke’s walk-off home run in the 18th inning of Game 4.

Interestingly, this is the first time Atlanta and Houston will play one another in a best-of-seven postseason series. The Division Series has always been a best-of-five series.

The Astros and Braves haven’t played a meaningful game against one another since 2017

For 50 years, the Braves and Astros played one another multiple times each season. Baseball’s scheduling rules ensured that each team had at least two series against one another per year even after the divisional realignment in 1994.

Things significantly changed when Houston moved to the AL in 2013. The Astros and Braves only played one another seven times across three series — a three-game stretch in June 2014 and two two-game series in May and July 2014 — over the last nine seasons.

Atlanta won two of the three games in 2014, and Houston, the World Series champions in 2017, won all four matchups when they played again three years later.

Originally, the Astros would have closed the 2020 regular season in Atlanta. However, the pandemic’s effect on last season meant the Astros only played teams in the AL and NL West.

Atlanta and Houston are already guaranteed to square off in 2022

The Atlanta Braves (L) and Houston Astros will face off in the 2021 World Series.
It’s deja vu all over again for those who once watched the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros regularly square off in the postseason | Bob Levey/Getty Images; Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images

Those on either side who hope to see Atlanta and Houston resume their rivalry and yearly matchups are somewhat in luck. The Braves are scheduled to host the Astros in a three-game series next August.

That weekend summer series won’t be the first time two defending World Series representatives played one another the Atlanta won two of the three games in 2014, and Houston, the World Series champions in 2017, won all four matchups when they played again three years later. In fact, it’ll actually be the 15th such rematch since interleague play began in 1997. The Braves experienced the feeling in 1997 and 2000 when they faced off against the Yankees.

Atlanta, at least, got a bit of revenge when they took two of three games from the Bronx Bombers in the former year. Most recently, the Astros won two of their three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2018.

Historically, the reigning losers have won nine of the 14 regular-season series showdowns. We’ll see what next season’s series between these two teams looks like, and if it’s a precursor for what’s to come later that year.

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