JORGE Soler and Adam Duvall slugged home runs and the Atlanta Braves overcame the loss of right-hander Charlie Morton by riding an early outburst to a 6-2 victory over the host Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.
The Braves scored in each of their first three at-bats, building a 5-0 lead against Houston’s Framber Valdez (0-1). The left-hander had twirled eight spectacular innings in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the Boston Red Sox, but three pitches into his fourth start this postseason, Valdez found himself trailing.
Soler drilled a 2-0 sinker from Valdez into the Crawford Boxes in left field, a 382-foot leadoff blast that signaled the start of an abbreviated outing for Valdez. The Braves recorded three batted balls with exit velocities of at least 105 mph in the top of the first inning, including an Austin Riley RBI double that scored Ozzie Albies and doubled the lead to 2-0.
After facing six batters in the first inning, Valdez faced seven more in the second, with Soler plating Travis d’Arnaud with a fielder’s choice grounder. Despite those struggles, Valdez retook the mound in the third, but he faced only two batters, with Duvall following an Eddie Rosario single with a two-run homer to left that traveled 387 feet with a 111.7 mph exit velocity.
Valdez allowed five runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts in two-plus innings.
Morton pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first thanks in part to a dazzling defensive play from Albies, who smothered a grounder from Kyle Tucker before assisting on the final out. Morton opened the second by taking a sharp grounder from Yuli Gurriel off his lower right leg but appeared unfazed while retiring the bottom of the Houston lineup in order.
In the third inning, Morton winced and buckled while recording a called third strike on the leadoff batter, Jose Altuve. He departed with Atlanta medical personnel, and the Braves later announced that Morton sustained a fractured right fibula that would sideline him for the remainder of the World Series.
Armed with a five-run lead, Braves relievers A.J. Minter (1-0), Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith covered the final 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts. Minter threw a career-high 43 pitches in 2 2/3 innings after replacing Morton in the third.
Houston got run-scoring groundouts from Chas McCormick in the fourth inning and Carlos Correa in the eighth. Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth.
Soler, Albies and Rosario each had two hits for the Braves. Houston got three hits from Michael Brantley and two apiece from Kyle Tucker and Gurriel.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be played on Wednesday in Houston. — Reuters