WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michael Brantley is healthy at the most important time and not letting that go to waste.
After waiting so long to play on this stage, the veteran outfielder whose career has been interrupted by a laundry list of injuries cashed in on his most important chances in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night. Brantley hit two run-scoring singles and was a big part of the Houston Astros reversing their dreadful trend with runners in scoring position to beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 and cut their series deficit to 2-1.
Given his team's struggles at the plate, manager AJ Hinch could have put hot-hitting rookie Yordan Álvarez in left field hoping for a big hit or two. He stuck with the sure-handed Brantley, who remained steady as ever.
GALLERY: See photos of Game 3 of the World Series
Brantley singled off starter Aníbal Sánchez in the third and fifth innings and was intentionally walked in the sixth so he couldn't do more damage. He's 5 for 12 in the World Series, which is becoming a showcase of the 32-year-old as a professional hitter.
He blooped an 0-2 pitch from Sánchez into left field for Houston's first run of the night and perfectly timed a 3-1 changeup to lace a single to right and restore a two-run lead.
Houston entered the game hitting .175 this postseason with runners in scoring position. Brantley led the way as the club went 4 for 10 in those key spots Friday.
Brantley has seen this spotlight up close, just not in uniform. A right shoulder surgery sidelined him during the 2016 World Series, when his Cleveland Indians teammates lost to the Chicago Cubs in seven games.
He was used to sitting out by then, of course. A right wrist injury and hand surgery ended his 2011 season, sports hernia surgery was his reward for getting through 2012, right shoulder surgeries spoiled 2015 and 2016, and a right ankle strain hampered him in 2017.
None of that stopped Brantley's progression, and he has been an All-Star three years in a row. He got his groove back hitting .309 with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs last season, his final with Cleveland before signing a $32 million, two-year deal to join the Astros.
Brantley was even better this season with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs. This is the first playoffs he's been able to get past the first round, and thanks to a couple of timely hits, Brantley guaranteed the Astros will play at least two more games in this World Series.
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