Far too often, surrendering a first-inning grand slam is a death sentence. However, that wasn’t the case for the Houston Astros, who allowed the Atlanta Braves to put up a four-spot in the first inning of Game 5 before mounting a comeback. Houston pulled within one game of the Braves as the series now returns to Texas for two more contests, if necessary.
Tucker Davidson, who hadn’t made an MLB appearance since July 4, 2021, got the start for the Braves on Sunday night. He worked around a walk in the first inning by forcing a double play that ended the frame. On the opposite side, Framber Valdez toed the rubber for Atlanta and was quick to find himself in trouble. After a Jorge Soler single, Houston recorded two quick outs. However, a mere single and walk later, the bases were loaded. Adam Duvall capitalized with a grand slam, putting Atlanta up by four.
The Astros chipped away at their deficit in the second inning, tallying two runs on an Alex Bregman double and Martin Maldonado sac fly. After a quick frame from Valdez, Houston returned to the plate and put two runners on via error and walk. Davidson was replaced by Jesse Chavez, who allowed an RBI double and RBI groundout. The tie was short-lived, though, as the Braves pulled back ahead with a Freddie Freeman homer in the bottom of the third. Yimi Garcia replaced Valdez to finish the inning.
The top of the fourth offered something unique as Zack Greinke entered as a pinch-hitter and singled. However, he was stranded on base as Chavez and A.J. Minter combined to end the inning. Houston used a pitching change, too, calling on Jose Urquidy. He allowed a lead-off single but then recorded three outs. In the top of the fifth, two singles, a fielder’s choice, and an intentional walk gave the Astros the bases loaded with two outs. Maldonado walked and Marwin Gonzalez singled, giving Houston a 7-5 lead. Chris Martin entered in relief and closed out the frame. Phil Maton got the bottom of the fifth and danced around an Austin Riley double to preserve the two-run lead. Martin and Maton both pitched for their respective teams in the sixth inning, too, and did not allow any runners across.
Drew Smyly pitched the top of the seventh for Atlanta. He gave up a double and single, putting Atlanta in an 8-5 deficit. Maldonado knocked in the eighth run for his third RBI of the game. Ryne Stanek threw a perfect bottom of the seventh. The Astros added one more run in the top of the eighth when Jose Altuve singled, stole second, took third on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a Carlos Correa single. Kendall Graveman took over for Stanek in the bottom of the eighth with a four-run lead and escaped unscathed. Both Smyly and Graveman pitched perfect ninth innings for their respective teams, confirming the final score of 9-5 in Houston’s favor.
Houston tallied 12 hits in this one, including three apiece from Correa (two RBI) and Yuli Gurriel (one RBI). Maldonado also had quite the impact, posting a single, walk, and three RBI. While nobody homered, they limited strikeouts (nine) and worked walks (six) to put them in a good position to win. Yordan Alvarez was the only starter (not named Valdez) to fail to reach base in the contest.
On the mound, Valdez surrendered all five of Atlanta’s runs, lasting 2.2 innings. The bullpen buckled down, headlined by Maton, Stanek, and Graveman, who combined for six strikeouts, three hits, and zero runs over the final five innings. Urquidy was tagged with the win following his scoreless fourth inning.
The Braves struck for eight hits and also hit two home runs, which accounted for the entirety of their run production. Riley (two singles and a double) and d’Arnaud (two singles) were the only Braves to record multiple hits. The latter is now hitting a solid 7-for-20 with two homers and three multi-hit games during the World Series.
The Braves were unable to find stability from their pitchers in this one. Davidson was merely okay, allowing four runs (two earned) over two innings, but it was Minter who blew the game open and earned the loss by allowing three runs through one inning of work. On a more positive note, Smyly, despite allowing two runs on five hits, ate innings late in the game. He pitched three frames and struck out five batters along the way.
Returning home on a one-game winning streak was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Braves, who have won three of their last four. Now, though, it’s the Astros who head home fresh off a victory. It’s not going to be easy to win three in a row against this Braves team, but anything is possible. Luis Garcia, who is on short rest, will pitch Game 6 for Houston on Tuesday. Max Fried is on track to get the nod for Atlanta.
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 8:09 p.m. EST
Stadium: Minute Maid Park
Location: Houston, Tex.
Astros Pitcher: Luis Garcia | 0-1, 2.45 ERA
Braves Pitcher: Max Fried | 0-1, 10.80 ERA
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