ATLANTA– After another ice cold showing from the Houston Astros offense on Saturday night, we all began to ponder out loud if Dusty’s chance at a World Series had once again slipped through his hands.
Dusty didn’t offer any excuses for the situation, but instead reiterated the faith he has in his ballclub. That faith was rewarded Sunday night, as the Astros defeated the Atlanta Braves 9-5 to force this series back to Houston for Game 6.
The Braves jumped out to a four-run, first inning lead thanks to a two-out grand slam by Adam Duvall. But unlike Saturday, the Astros were able to respond early and often.
“I was trying to figure out a way how we can chip away and get back in that game,” Baker told Ken Rosenthal on FOX TV after the victory. “But mostly, trying to figure out how to keep it at four.”
The Braves would add one additional run, but once Dusty went to his bullpen, Atlanta was held scoreless for 6 ⅔ innings.
Feeble Bats Wake Up
But there were still runs to score, and the Astros hadn’t been able to do much in that department since Game 2. Now when looking to explain such a drastic shift in offensive output, you need to look no further than the lineup.
With his team on the brink of elimination, Dusty dropped third baseman Alex Bregman to seventh and ran with his hottest six hitters at the top of the lineup. Armed with a new batting order, the Astros were able to do something we haven’t seen from them since they dismantled the Boston Red Sox last round; score runs in bunches.
The Astros scored two in the second and third, three in the fifth and two more insurance runs to end Atlanta’s postseason home win streak at eight games.
“Carlos swung the bat great, we got a big double outta Bregman and so I’m just glad we get to take it back to Houston,” said an excited Baker.
“That was our goal today, to get it back to Houston and it’s just one game at a time now.”
The way both managers handle the bullpen will be important in the final two games of this series. The key to an Astros win, however, lies in the bats. The Astros core players — from Altuve to Correa to Brantley — have to pound their way to the title, which won’t be an easy task.
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As shortstop Tim Anderson goes, so do the White Sox.
Once considered a raw power-hitting prospect with all the tools but lacking experience, Anderson has blossomed into one of the best pure hitters in baseball. He’s currently on an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .316. In fact, he’s hit in 22 of his last 25 games.
The rise of Tim Anderson as a face of baseball comes at a time where Black fans are longing for a reason to get back into the game. Tim has embraced that challenge, and the South Side of Chicago all in the same breathe.
“Every corner, you’re going to see a White Sox hat,” said Anderson. “I’m here to change the game. I’m here to show these kids that it’s OK, baseball’s cool, and you can play it.”
Since Opening Day, the Chicago White Sox have been one of the most discussed teams in the MLB. After years of rebuilding, Chicago is loaded with talent and poised to challenge for the American League pennant.
The White Sox have the 5th-best hitting and pitching squads in baseball. They also have a former batting champion and consistent party starter in Anderson and a Hall of Fame manager (Tony La Russa) who was called back into action to lead this squad to glory.
But even with a roster loaded with 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu and Cy Young contender Lucas Giolito, TA is one name that fans keep in mind when monitoring the success of these White Sox.
And no, it’s not simply because of the bat-flips.
Over the past two seasons, the 2019 batting title winner has blossomed into one of the best pure hitters in baseball, and his charisma, talent, and emotion have had a drastic impact on the success of the White Sox.
“I want to be the best, so I practice like it, and I think like it,” Anderson told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Confidence is always at an all-time high. I never lose. A guy might strike me out, but I got myself out. He didn’t get me out.”
Anderson’s swagger has been infectious, and as a result, the White Sox always look like a completely different team with him in the lineup.
On Saturday he swagged out his cleats in a Laker’s color scheme in honor of the late Kobe Bryant’s Hall of Fame induction.
The power he was originally known for is still there, but his approach at the plate has evolved. He can hurt opponents in a multiplicity of ways.
His ultra-aggressive hitting style is complemented by his silky smooth base running, as Anderson is currently 4th in the MLB in stolen bases. Let’s not forget his lethal glove.
Since his return from the IL on Jackie Robinson Day, the White Sox are in first place in the AL Central and one of just two teams with a winning percentage greater than .600. A team that once looked lost offensively has rebounded to have the highest run differential in all of baseball.
He continues to walk the walk and contribute to the culture and future of the game.