Every time the Houston Astros have put out a stinker of an offensive performance this postseason, they come storming back, reminding everyone why they topped all of baseball in runs scored this season. The Astros came back to life on Sunday night for a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the World Series. The victory was sparked by the heart of the Astros' offensive power, with Jose Altuve racking up two hits, Michael Brantley walking twice and tallying a hit, Carlos Correa collecting three hits and two RBIs, Yuli Gurriel scoring two runs on three hits while knocking in a run, and Alex Bregman tallying a big RBI base hit after entering Game 5 hitting 1-for-14 in the first four games of the Series.
Manager Dusty Baker shook up the lineup after the team's offense struggled, dropping Bregman from the three-hole to seventh, moving Correa from the fifth to the third spot, and sliding up Gurriel from seventh to fifth. Credit to Baker for being willing to shake things up and move Bregman down a few slots in the lineup to give the Astros' third baseman a different look in the lineup.
How the Braves' bullpen bounces back will go a long ways toward determining whether they can take one of the two games in Houston to clinch their first World Series championship since 1995. Atlanta's decision to turn to rookie Tucker Davidson initially looked promising in the game's first inning before the pitcher allowed four runs on two hits while walking three batters in 2-plus innings pitched. A.J. Minter also struggled, allowing three runs on three hits while walking and striking out two. Drew Smyly allowed Houston to further extend its lead, allowing five hits and two runs over two innings pitched. While Atlanta's bullpen has bent but not broken so far throughout the course of its playoff run, the Braves' relievers struggled to keep things within reach for their offense on Sunday.
On the flip side, Houston's bullpen came through. All of Atlanta's runs came off of Framber Valdez, who went two innings, allowing four hits and five runs, including two homers to Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman. In order to get through a game in which their starter went 2⅔ innings, the Astros relied on a bevy of relievers, including Yimi Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek and Kendall Graveman, who combined to not yield any hits or walks.
Now we head back to Houston, where Atlanta has two shots to avoid adding to the city's lore of heartbreaking sports losses by not blowing a 3-1 series lead. -- Joon Lee
Here are some of the biggest moments from a high-stakes Game 5:
Houston comes alive in five
Hope you didn't count out Houston's offense. The Astros stormed back in the fifth inning, scoring three runs to take a 7-5 lead. The inning started with a Carlos Correa line-drive single to center field. Following a strikeout by Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel singled before Kyle Tucker followed up with a ground out to push Correa to third and Gurriel to second.
Atlanta then decided to intentionally walk Alex Bregman, which set up a bases-loaded at-bat for Martin Maldonado against A.J. Minter. Minter promptly walked the Astros catcher on five pitches, which scored the tying run for Houston.
A Marwin Gonzalez single to left field scored Gurriel and Bregman before Altuve ended the inning on a strike out. -- Lee
Those fans look familiar
Young wasn't the only member of the Hawks to show his support for the fellow Atlanta franchise, as Lou Williams was also spotted at the game, decked out in a jersey and all.
Wild third inning
Freddie Freeman took one look at the scoreboard and was fed up with the tied score. After working a 1-2 count to 3-2, Freeman golfed a 94.5 mph sinker deep into the right-field seats on the sixth pitch of his at-bat against Valdez.
The 460-foot moonshot pushed Atlanta into the lead again.
While the rest of the inning ended quietly after an Ozzie Albies groundout on a dribbler to Alex Bregman, a groundout by Austin Riley to Carlos Correa, an Eddie Rosario walk and an Adam Duvall popup, the damage was done by the Braves. -- Lee
It didn't take long for Houston to start chipping away at Atlanta's lead. Yordan Alvarez started Houston's half of the second inning by flying out to left field, but after a line-drive single by Yuli Gurriel to center field and a walk by Kyle Tucker, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman -- who entered Game 5 hitting 1-for-14 in the World Series and dropped to seventh in the lineup -- doubled on a sharp line drive to centerfield on a 94.3 mph fastball from Tucker Davidson, scoring Gurriel. Catcher Martin Maldonado followed up with a sacrifice fly to center field, which scored Tucker and brought the score to 4-2 in Atlanta's favor. -- Lee
Slam to start it off
Atlanta struck first. Following a leadoff single from Jorge Soler, a Freddie Freeman flyout, a fielder's choice by Ozzie Albies, a single by Austin Riley and a walk of Eddie Rosario, outfielder Adam Duvall hit a grand slam over the right field fence on a first-pitch 95.4 mph sinker against Framber Valdez. Duvall landed in Atlanta at the trade deadline after the Braves needed to replace Ronald Acuna Jr., who tore his ACL and was ruled out for the season. In 55 games with Atlanta, Duvall hit .226/.287/.513 with 16 homers in 199 plate appearances, finishing the 2021 season with 38 homers between his time with the Miami Marlins and the Braves. -- Lee
A GRAND START FOR THE BRAVES. pic.twitter.com/hoM6BRpo4N— MLB (@MLB) November 1, 2021
Duvall's blast marks the third-ever first-inning grand slam in the World Series and the first since 1960.
Did we mention the potential series-clinching game just happens to fall on Halloween?
Braves players understood the assignment. See: Joc Pederson's trick or treat-inspired Sour Patch Kids and Coca-Cola ensemble (with a pearl necklace, of course), A.J. Minter's ode to country singer Alan Jackson and Jorge Soler's cheetah onesie.
On second glance, did Correa rock the Freddy Krueger sweater?
Spooky season indeed.