WASHINGTON—Rallying from a four-run deficit in an elimination game, the Houston Astros kept their World Series title hopes alive on Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Braves 9-5.
Martin Maldonado drove in three runs while Carlos Correa went 3-for-5 and drove in two runs as the Astros pulled within 3-2 in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final, which continues with game six on Tuesday in Houston.
“I’m just glad we get to go back to Houston,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “One game at a time now. Still alive.”
Maldonado, a 35-year-old Puerto Rican catcher, became the first player in a World Series game to plate runs with a single, walk and sacrifice fly while Houston pitchers silenced Braves batters, allowing only one run after the first inning.
“The bullpen was great for us,” said Maldonado. “They got beaten yesterday but came back stronger today. It was a must-win game. Now we’re going back to Houston.”
Atlanta’s Adam Duvall smashed a grand slam home run in the first inning but the host Braves squandered the 4-0 lead as the Astros matched the 1919 Chicago White Sox for the largest deficit overcome to win a World Series game when facing elimination.
“I was trying to figure out how we could chip away at that, just trying to figure out how we could keep them from running away on us,” Baker said.
Baker had already done what he needed as the Astros, trying to solve their hitting woes, shuffled their batting lineup and it paid off.
“We got punched in the mouth and came back to win,” Astros slugger Alex Bregman said. “Just wanted to go out and play hard. Nothing to lose.”
The Braves, who had won their first seven home games in this year’s playoffs, remain one win shy of their first World Series title since 1995.
“We’re all right,” Braves pitcher A.J. Minter said. “We’re right where we want to be. We’re in a really good spot.”
The Astros are in their third World Series in five seasons, having won the 2017 title and lost to Washington in 2019.
The Braves jumped on Houston starting left-hander Framber Valdez in the first inning when Jorge Soler singled, advanced on a ground out and reached third on Austin Riley’s single before Eddie Rosario walked to load the bases.
Duvall followed by smashing a grand slam home run into the right-field stands to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead as a sellout crowd roared with delight.
“We celebrated it. We got excited. That’s what you do when you hit home runs,” Duvall said. “But it’s a long game. They didn’t quit. They kept fighting.
“We weren’t able to get it going again and keep the pressure on. Hats off to their pitchers.”
It was the first World Series grand slam in an opening inning since Bobby Richardson of the New York Yankees hit one in 1960. AFP
Yuli Gurriel, who moved up in the order, singled and took second when Kyle Tucker walked. Bregman, who moved down in the lineup, doubled off the centerfield wall to score Gurriel and Tucker scored on a sacrifice fly by Maldonado as Houston pulled within 4-2.
In the third, Correa doubled to score one run and another scored on a Gurriel ground out to pull Houston level.
Freeman hits long homer
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman answered in the third by smashing a solo homer to give the Braves a 5-4 edge.
The 460-foot (140.2m) blast was the longest of this year’s playoffs and matched the longest Freeman ever hit.
But in the fifth, left-hander Minter walked Maldonado with the bases loaded to tie the game and Marwin Gonzalez followed with a two-run single to give Houston a 7-5 advantage.
Maldonado added an RBI single in the seventh and Correa singled in a run in the eighth to create the final margin.