ATLANTA – Adam Duvall has swung and baseball has made its way high and deep and definitely into the history books. The 43,122 Atlanta fans crowding Truist Park turned into a raucous hum of partying moods, with early arrivals and a World Series win within reach. They believed that the grand slam, which was only 21st in World Series history, marked their divine right to celebrate.
It was the first hit.
There’s a reason the Houston Astros are here too, although they haven’t been performing much lately. But they finally found their offensive channel just when they needed it and faced elimination in Game 5. A big day with a concussion on the roster and a light-hit catcher provided a series-saving 9-5 victory for the Astros.
It had been a rough few days for the Astros. They hadn’t played in Atlanta since 2017, and due to cold and rainy conditions, not only was their planned practice for Thursday evening canceled, but their pre-game pitching practice was wiped out before Games 3 and 4. So the only time the Astros were on foreign court was during games.
It showed on offense. They scored just two points in the first 18 innings here, lost 2-0 and 3-2, and had a lousy time from start to finish. Including games in Houston, the Astros finished 4 to 31 with the runners in scoring position in the series.
But Manager Dusty Baker stubbornly said “I believe in miracles” before Game 5, and it looked like his team might need it, as the Astros had left 17 runners on base in the first two games in Atlanta.
One of the facts Baker mentioned before Game 5 was that as recently as the 2016 World Series, the Chicago Cubs came back to beat Cleveland three to one and win the championship.
Houston’s attack finally awoke on Sunday, the day the sky cleared and the field dried up. The Astros scheduled an early on-court workout for the afternoon before Atlanta’s batting practice session. Whether that alone brought change or whether the Astros’ kickers were too good to hold onto for long, things changed dramatically in Game 5.
Downing early 4-0, Houston took two runs in the second round when Yuli Gurriel kicked center, Kyle Tucker walked and Alex Bregman struggled so badly that Baker knocked him down to seventh and hit an RBI. threw. couple. Tucker then scored with catcher Martín Maldonado’s ball flying into midfield.
It was a start. The Astros tied 4-4 with two more runs in the third round. Atlanta short-back Dansby Swanson launched a floor ball to give Houston a head start there. The Astros then swung a Freddie Freeman homer, scoring three more out of five goals to put Atlanta 5-4. Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit the ground kicks, Bregman deliberately walked with two outs and first base open and Maldonado, then a clutch, base-loaded walk against Atlanta reliever AJ Minter.
Maldonado, a defensive player at the centre-back, who typically contributes little offensively, has only had one walk in this season-ending 47-plate game at the time. But on a night when Houston was desperate for help from every corner of his roster, Maldonado stepped up. The player, who finished the regular season with the worst batting average of all major league catchers with at least 400 plate games (.172), finished with three RBIs, coming in with a base kick in the seventh two innings after a Tucker double.
Correa released an RBI single with an unnecessary, but pleasant, insurance run at eighth.
It all wiped out the Duvall grand slam, where many thought it was a sure sign that Atlanta would clinch their first World Series title since 1995. One in the 1960 World Series.
That, and the fact that Atlanta had a perfect 7-0 at home at the end of this season, seemed like premonitions of a big celebration in this town on Sunday night. Instead, the World Series will now return to Houston for Game 6 on Tuesday night, with the Astros’ offense showing signs of life and at least there are some indications that there may be a long way to go in this series at least.