Hey guys, Ari here. I am stranded in a hotel in Miami due to one of the million flights American Airlines cancelled today. My usual Astros game setup (1. Being at the game 2. At work/home with Peanut M&Ms) is currently cold pizza in a hotel. I’ll be blogging here every inning and will chat with you guys in the comments!
ANYWAY...With the Astros’ season on the line, Dusty Baker has finally made a lineup move dropping Alex Bregman to 7th. Houston likes to go R-L-R-L in their lineup, so I’m not surprised they kept that structure by moving Carlos Correa up to 3rd despite his struggles. The good news is, when Houston’s lineup is clicking - they’re the most terrifying 1-7 in baseball. Unfortunately the Braves have a lot of hard-throwing left-handers in their bullpen, which seems to have thrown Houston’s offense off.
Let’s get nerdy. Despite limited action, Tucker Davidson’s Baseball Savant profile shows something pretty interesting - he almost exclusively throws two pitches. Davidson works between a 4-seam fastball and a slider. The sample size is small, but his fastball was hittable (.313 batting average against), while his slider was unhittable (.118 batting average against). None of the underlying numbers on his pitches are particularly impressive, but the Astros have struggled with left-handed pitching in this series...
Joe Buck noted that Duvall’s granny was the first 1st inning grand slam in the World Series since the 1960 Yankees. Any tiny bright spot for the Astros is that the Pittsburgh Pirates won that series in dramatic fashion thanks to Bill Mazeroski.
This is the first time Alex Bregman has batted 7th or lower since 2017. Bregman battled a hamstring injury for a large chunk of the season and didn’t get back until late. His power has been sapped these past couple of seasons, too. Bregman had a career worst ISO (”Isolated Power”) this season. He had nearly half the power he hit with in 2019, per ISO...Great swing from him though to take it the other way. Bregman likes to pull the ball, but this was a great 2-out swing. Astros are on the board. If Bregman can provide 3-hole Bregman stuff from the 7-hole that would be HUGE.
Martin Maldonado just put together a great at bat to drive in the run on the sac fly. Astros getting 2 immediately after a deflating grand slam is a very, very positive sign.
Carlos Correa is freakin’ ridiculous. What a play. Valdez has settled down. He’s getting on top of his sinker, meaning the ball is getting driven down as he fires it. Braves are starting to bang it into the ground. Good sign for him to maybe battle for 5 innings or something.
Tucker Davidson isn’t terrifying, but he is a lefty. Astros did a great job getting him out of the game early. Jesse Chavez, the righty coming in. Momentum trending well for Houston to have their first real strong playoff comeback.
...And look what happens when the Astros face a righthander who doesn’t have elite velocity. 4-3, thanks to Carlos Correa.
Tie game. This is significant. The Astros have not been coming back in the playoffs, and now it’s tied. Houston scrapped back. If the Braves have to leave in Jesse Chavez, they could extend the lead.
Need a shutdown inning from Framber Valdez here.
Update: A shutdown inning didn’t happen. Freddie Freeman bomb. Only counts as 1 though.
Good recovery by Valdez after giving up a *checks notes* 460 FOOT HOME RUN. He’s keeping the ball down and getting guys to pound it into the ground. He’s also being efficient with his pitches. I would let him go a bit. I feel like he may be able to give the Astros better work than some of the taxed bullpen.
2 out walk not ideal. Framber Valdez is done after 2.2 innings. Here comes Yimi Garcia. Gotta hope the deadline acquisition can hold the Braves. Fox goes into commercial playing “Rollout” by Ludacris. Fun Fact: When I was little, my older brother and I would go to Best Buy while my mom shopped and absolutely BLAST “Rollout” in the car speaker test section. That and “King of the City” by Nelly. Good times.
Zack Greinke is pinch hitting. Zack Greinke has a hit! What an amazing World Series moment! Thanks to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, we know that Greinke’s pinch hit is the first in the World Series, get this, SINCE 1923. Some guy named Jack Bentley had two that year.
Michael Brantley up with 2 outs now as the Braves go to the bullpen for A.J. Minter. They’re going to pound the Astros lineup with lefty relievers now. Also this game is going to take 5 hours.
Minter gets Brantley swinging to end the inning. If the Astros are going to survive in this series, they have to score off these lefties.
Jose Urquidy is able to get through the inning as Dusty Baker is doing whatever it takes to extend this series.
Carlos Correa leads off with a single off A.J. Minter. Like I said, it’ll take scoring on these lefties. So far, Dusty’s lineup moves have largely worked out.
1st and 2nd now as Correa and Gurriel are on with singles in new batting spots. Astros should be able to have another righty - Alex Bregman bat with a runner in scoring position based on their RLRLRLR lineup structure.
They intentionally walk Bregs with 1st base open. Martin Maldonado has the opportunity to do something special here. 2 outs, bases loaded.
Fox showing Maldonado crowding the plate. There’s gotta be a good reason behind it if Maldy is asked after the game. He does hours of extra research on both opposing hitter and pitcher tendencies. He clearly sees something that makes Minter uncomfortable.
AND MALDONADO DRAWS A BASES LOADED WALK. SEE ABOVE FOR WHY!
MARWIN GONZALEZ! 7-5 Astros. Unbelievable. He’s barely played for Houston this season and he just delivered one of the biggest hits of his career. Astros needed to score off a lefty, and they tagged A.J. Minter for 3 in this inning. THIS is how you win a World Series.
Altuve strikes out to end the inning with 2 on, but the damage is done. Astros need to get 15 outs to survive.
Phil Maton is on for the Astros. He’s been absolutely nails this postseason. He had a tough situation last night when Brooks Raley left a mess for him, but you have a righty getting a clean inning with reverse splits here. Maton deals with lefties well. They OPS 70 points lower against him than righties. It’s just like having a lefty vs. lefty matchup out there.
Like I said...reverse splits. Austin Riley does damage with a 2-out double with Atlanta’s hottest hitter in Eddie Rosario up next. But...Rosario is a lefty, and the phrase of the day - REVERSE SPLITS.
Careful going low and inside to Rosario...lefties can lift those pitches. I’d elevate the fastball to strike him out.
Maton gets it done! Goes two high fastballs into an outside changeup that gets Rosario to chop out. That is a HUGE out. 7-5 Astros going into the 6th.
The Braves had Michael Brantley shifted until he got 2 strikes on him. Interesting...I talked to Bally Sports South Analyst Paul Byrd at Minute Maid the other day and he told me the Braves barely shifted until well into May. Once they started shifting, it significantly helped their team defense. The Astros, of course, are pretty cutting edge on shifts. They are something like +14 defensive runs saved in shifts.
Maton out there for a 2nd inning is some aggressive pushing by Dusty. He’ll get a rest day tomorrow if the Astros win, so it’s fine. Problem here is this section of their line up is righty heavy, but it is the bottom of the order. Managers have a hard gig, guys.
Travis d’Arnaud singles hard. Gotta be careful to Dansby Swanson. The Diamondbacks didn’t make one of the worst trades in MLB history for Swanson to not be dangerous here.
Dansby is swinging out of his shoes. Lordt.
Maton! Got heeeeeem. Elevated fastball. He doesn’t throw hard but he hides the ball really well.
Bashing Boychik (Joc) is up. Remember, reverse splits.
The pearls thing is cool. Joc pops it up but Alex Bregman showing shortstop range to make the catch. Great play by Bregs. Maton gets through 2 innings without giving up a run. MASSIVE performance.
The Braves have SO many lefties.
Kyle Tucker! Lefty on lefty crime with the double to the RF corner. Astros would love some insurance here.
Bregman pop up. Can Martin Madonado play hero again?
How crazy is it that Yuli-Altuve-Correa-Bregman have played more playoff games together than any other 4 teammates in MLB history? How crazy is it that Jose Altuve is 2nd ALL-TIME in postseason home runs?
8-5! Martin Maldonado is the MVP of this game by far. RBI single in a HUGE spot.
Heads up baserunning to get to 2nd on the throw from Machete. Chas McCormick will pinch hit. Smart to save Jose Siri for potential pinch running need later. Chas K’s. Damage done though. 9 outs to hold a 3-run lead.
Ryne Stanek is in for the Astros. He’s been great this postseason. Another good James Click add. He knew Stanek back to his days in Tampa Bay. Fun Fact: Stanek and I were both in Cape Cod in 2011. He was the Bourne Braves star pitcher out of Arkansas. I was the Brewster Whitecaps play by play guy.
Great job by Stanek to stay out of Freeman’s low/in wheelhouse. He has been so good.
STANEK. Shutdown inning.
Smyly still in. Altuve...bunts? Nah. I hated it when Francisco Lindor did it, I hate it here. Altuve is 2nd in postseason home runs, don’t bunt...and he gets a 2-strike single.
Altuve. Never dull. Gets caught in somewhat of a rundown, but beats the throw because Smyly went wide. Astros have a runner in scoring position.
Review...really close play. Great tag by Swanson. Looks like they tied - tag as he touched the base. Safe. That play was going to be hard to overturn.
9-5! Correa RBI single. The lineup change has been tremendous. So has the bullpen. Astros outscoring Braves 9-1 since the grand slam by Adam “Don’t call me Robert” Duvall.
Yordan looks lost at the plate against lefty breaking balls.
If the Astros can somehow get through this game without using Ryan Pressly after last night, that would be MASSIVE. I anticipate him potentially having to pitch 6-outs back to back Tuesday-Wednesday.
Yuli another hit. These righties are starting to get their splits for the Astros. The lineup is working. Great confidence leading into the potential home game(s). Astros need 1 more run to really be comfortable not using Pressly.
They don’t get 1 more run.
Ex-Athletics starter Kendall Graveman in for the 8th. Can he go 2 to save Pressly? He’ll get 4-5-6.
Austin Riley singles. He was my ‘guy to watch’ before game 1 in that Braves lineup. Turned out Adam Duvall has been the ‘guy to watch,’ but Riley has done plenty of damage vs. Houston in this series. I watch a ton of Braves games by virtue of watching a lot of Mets games and Riley KILLED them.
Graveman just threw a really high stress inning. Not sure I want him in the 9th after that. However, he gets a day off tomorrow. Somehow, they gotta save Pressly. 3 more outs to get.
Not sure there’s gonna be much scoring here. Astros having Kendall Graveman batting. He’ll get to start the 9th at least.
Graveman doesn’t swing. Guys...that might be the last at bat by a pitcher ever. Seriously. Universal DH is in serious consideration. Bottom 9. Graveman. Here we go.
Graveman gets 8-9-1. Fortunate for the Astros even though he starts with Swanson.
Siri! Nice catch. Braves are down to their final out.
Graveman gets Soler!
THE ASTROS WIN 9-5! GAME 6 TUESDAY! MINUTE MAID PARK!
The way the Astros won was huge. They got down 4-0, and unlike pretty much every other game since the ALCS - they came back and won the game. This specific team, with this specific lineup needed the confidence that they can come back from a big deficit in these playoffs. The bullpen was excellent again and they were able to save Ryan Pressly.
All around exactly what the Astros needed heading home.
They have the confidence on offense to hit off Atlanta’s lefty relievers and the confidence they can come back on this bullpen.
If the lineup’s RISP hitting has regressed to it’s regular excellence, they can win this series.
Dusty Baker just said in his postgame interview with Ken Rosenthal that “probably (Luis) Garcia” will start game 6, on short rest.
I’m going to try to get some sleep and hopefully catch a flight home Monday so I can see you guys at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday!