The Astros were shut out in Game 3 of the World Series by the Atlanta Braves and wanted to win the next two games to grab the advantage back in the series, but needed at least one win to make the Braves fly to Houston.
Games 4 and 5 were two games that could have gone either way, but in the end, they seemed to go the way the baseball fates intended them. For most of the game, the Astros outplayed the Braves in Game 4 but tempted the baseball fates by violating a basic tenet. When you are winning, and you get ducks on the pond early, drive the suckers home, or you will later wish you had. In Game 5, the Braves had the chance to break the Astros back after grabbing a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but instead of putting a foot to their throats, they allowed the Astros to pull one of those judo moves where the guy on the ground ends up on top of the aggressor in two quick moves.
In Game 4, the Astros scored a run in the first but left seven runners aboard in the first three innings. They scored again in the fourth inning on a solo blast by Jose Altuve, which was the end of their scoring for the night. They carried a 2-0 lead into the sixth, but the Braves pushed one run across that inning and in the seventh. After looking foolish on a couple Cristian Javier sliders, Dansby Swanson turned a fastball around to tie the game and pinch hitter Jorge Soler jacked one just over Yordan Alvarez’s glove to give the Braves a 3-2 lead that they would protect to the end.
In Game 5, things could not have looked more dire. The Astros were down 3-1 in the series and, after a grand slam by Adam Duvall in the first, they were staring at a historical deficit. Only once in World Series history had a team been down 4 runs or more in an elimination game and won. Well, now there are two such teams. Even though he went back to popping the ball up in his later at bats, Alex Bregman’s huge double in the second inning broke the ice for the Astros and allowed them to cut that 4 run lead in half when Martin Maldonado chimed in with his first of three RBIs. The third inning went down the same way as Carlos Correa (moved up in the lineup) knocked in a run with a double, allowing the team to tie the game with a productive out.
Freddie Freeman’s solo shot put the Braves back up in the third inning, but five Astro relievers came in and shut their offense down with 6.1 scoreless innings. The Astros rallied to take the lead with three in the fifth on the backs of a bases-loaded walk to Maldy and a bloop single to left from the struggling veteran Marwin Gonzalez. Maldonado knocked in an insurance run in the seventh, and Correa knocked in a double indemnity run in the eighth, and that was all she wrote. The chanting tribe of Braves’ fans were finally quieted, and the Astros could return to their home field with a shot of taking the title.
So……reasons to like the Braves to take the title at this point.
- They only have to win one of two. And in reality, that would be one of three if you count the one they lost at home on Sunday night.
- They have two rested starters ready to go in Game 6 and, if needed, Game 7. Max Fried was one of the best starters in baseball down the stretch. Ian Anderson (no, not the Jethro Tull guy) was almost untouchable in Game 4 of this series.
- They have been the underdog throughout the playoffs and played like the front runner in disposing of the 95 win Brewers, the 106 win Dodgers and running out to a 3-1 lead against the 95 win Astros.
- Even though they finished the season at 88-74 and entered the playoffs with the worst record of all those teams, they had gone 36-18 to get into the playoffs and have basically played live or die baseball since the beginning of August.
- They also have some tough, hard-throwing hombres coming out of the bullpen and can hold the rope at the end of the game with A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith (no, not MIB Will Smith).
Reasons the Astros can win this….
- They’ve been here before. Recently. And a lot. They know how to play in the big games, and they know what it takes to win in the big games.
- That lineup can be a load, especially at home. And the shakeup Dusty Baker made in moving Correa and others up, and Bregman down seemed to really give them a boost. The thing is, they are winning even when Yordan Alvarez isn’t hitting. They have so much depth with Altuve, Michael Brantley, Correa, Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, and Bregman (and yes Martin Maldonado occasionally) that they wear down pitchers when they are feeling it. It will also help to not play in 50-degree rain.
- Luis Garcia and his dimples. OK, they don’t help him pitch, but they are a wonder to behold after he has successfully helped the team.
- I can’t believe I am typing this, but their bullpen, which at one time caused fans to flinch, has put up terrific numbers for this team, and they would be home (real home) right now if not for the bullpen. Whether it has been Yimi Garcia, Brooks Raley, Blake Taylor, Phil Maton, Cristian Javier, Ryne Stanek, Kendall Gravemen or Ryan Pressly, they have all had critical moments in these playoffs.
- X factors – whether it is Zack Greinke pinch-hitting or Jake Odorizzi coming into tandem win a game – they have a lot of people who can contribute in a lot of ways.
- Oh, and did I say they have been here before. Oh, yeah, I did.
So, lay back and root for your Astros. They have a great chance to win it all by Wednesday night.