THE Houston Astros have been here before, operating on this stage so many times of late, that when they needed a clutch World Series performance in Game 2 on Wednesday, a steady and measured level of play appeared to come naturally.
Jose Altuve hit a home run and right-hander Jose Urquidy went five strong innings as Houston earned a 7-2 victory over the visiting Atlanta to even the World Series one win apiece.
The Astros maximized their opportunities, scoring four of their runs on a sacrifice fly, an infield single, an error and a fielder’s choice to rebound from a 6-2 defeat in Game 1.
Down one-game-to-none in the World Series is hardly a foreign concept to the Astros. It happened to them in 2017 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when they won the title, and again in 2019, when they were defeated by the Washington Nationals. Both series went seven games.
“After we lost (in Game 1), we stayed positive,” Altuve said postgame on Major League Baseball (MLB) Network. “That’s something we always talk about is win (today). We don’t care about yesterday or what we did. It was a new game today. I think we started the game the right way, and I was happy that we won this one. We needed it.”
The best-of-seven series shifts to Atlanta for the next three games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Travis d’Arnaud homered for the Braves while starter Max Fried gave up six runs on seven hits over five-plus innings as Atlanta lost for the third time in its past five postseason road games.
The Astros have won four of their past five overall and have rebounded with a victory following three of their four postseason losses.
“I just think we did a great job of communicating in the dugout,” said the Astros’ Michael Brantley, who matched Altuve with a pair of hits. “We haven’t faced (Fried) before. We have a lot of respect for him; he’s a great pitcher. We just did a great job of communicating, staying in the zone and having quality at-bats.”
Houston got off to a fast start with Altuve leading off the bottom of the first inning with a double before moving to third base on a Brantley fly ball. Alex Bregman followed with a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
The Braves got d’Arnaud’s solo home run in the second inning before trouble surfaced. The Astros scored four runs in the second, the first on an infield single from Jose Siri. Martin Maldonado added a run on a single to left field, with Siri scoring from first base on the play when Atlanta left fielder Eddie Rosario fired an errant throw back to the infield.
Houston finished off the big rally on a Brantley RBI single for a 5-1 advantage.
“In those moments, you try to slow the game down to try and get out of it,” Fried said, referencing a slow walk he took around the mound as the second inning was unfolding. “You want to be able to slow things down and shift the momentum. Sometimes, you have to take a longer time to settle things down.”
The Braves pulled within 5-2 on a Freddie Freeman RBI single in the fifth inning. The Astros got the run back in the sixth on a Yuli Gurriel ground ball that scored Yordan Alvarez as the Braves failed to record an out on the play.
Altuve’s home run led off the bottom of the seventh, his fourth this postseason. He has 22 playoff homers in his career, tied with Bernie Williams for second in major league history.
Urquidy (1-0) gave up two runs on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Four Astros relievers combined to allow one hit over four scoreless innings. “I was really focused, throwing strikes and attacking the hitters all the time, attacking the strike zone” said Urquidy, who rebounded from a rough start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the Boston Red Sox when he gave up six runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings. “The offense and defense was very good tonight.”
Fried (0-1) walked one and struck out six in his second consecutive rough outing. He gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings during a defeat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
“I can’t wait to get back home,” d’Arnaud said. “They’re really going to bring it. We have some great fans, and I know they will be ready to turn it on when we get back home.” — Reuters