Once again that original MLBbro O.G. Dusty Baker stayed level through chaos and his Houston Astros came back to life after giving the Atlanta Braves a dose of reality in Game 5 of the 2021 World Series.
The Astros erased a 4-0 lead after a first inning grand slam brought them to within outs of their season ending, and came from behind to beat the Braves 9-5.
The Stros head back to H-Town with confidence that no lead is insurmountable. Houston still trails the series 3-2, but momentum seems to have returned to the Fabulous Baker Boys.
Atlanta looks like a fighter who spent a round of taking flurries to gather points but now must pick themselves up off the canvas to win one of their next two games in order to win the championship that was in their grasp for most of Sunday night.
Baker never seemed phased after it appeared the Astros grave had been prepared for burial when Adam Duval launched a first inning grand slam.
No team had ever come back from giving up a four-run shot in the first inning in history.
The first inning on Halloween was fright night in Atlanta but the O.G. ‘s toothpick swag never wavered.
“I always say, if it’s going to happen, let it happen early,” said Baker. “You don’t want it to happen in the middle of the game or toward the end of the game. The guys came through. That’s what counts.”
Down by four with the tenth man doing their controversial tomahawk chop in the stands, Baker’s deft use of his bullpen kept the game close until the lethal Houston bats woke from the offensive slumber.
Often maligned by pundits who contend he doesn’t manage a bullpen effectively, Baker used his roster masterfully to bring the series back to Minute Maid Park.
Houston struggled with runners in scoring position through the first four games of the series so Baker juggled his lineup and turned what was supposed to be a celebration into the nightmare at Truist Park.
Houston evened the game in the third inning on an RBI double by Carlos Correa (who was moved into the five hole) and a groundout by Yuli Gurriel, who was hitting eighth in the lineup. It was one of three hits for the future free agent.
The Houston Astros have returned to the World Series for the third time in the past five seasons.
Houston survived the gauntlet of the American League by knocking off the Chicago White Sox in four games, and the Boston Red Sox in six utilizing the strength of its offense.
No team in the postseason has scored more runs than the Astros’ 67 in their 10 playoff games. Their average of 6.7 runs per game dwarfs those of the Boston Red Sox (5.5), Los Angeles Dodgers (4.0), and their opponent in the Fall Classic, the Atlanta Braves (4.0).
Michael Brantley asked about the abuse the #Astros take from fans on the road and does that just go with the territory: “Sure does. We get it everywhere we go…There’s nothing that a crowd’s gonna do that’s gonna get us off our game.” pic.twitter.com/RnJQyywA1b
Brantley is also tied with Pat Borders of the Toronto Blue Jays for the second-longest postseason hitting streak in baseball history at 16 games, trailing only Manny Ramirez, Hank Bauer, and Derek Jeter.
The streak that began in Game 1 of the 2020 America League Divisional Series didn’t end until Houston’s loss in Game 2 of this season’s ALCS.
While the Astros’ power bats like ALCS MVP Yordan Alverez, Yuli Guriel, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker, and Jose Altuve, get most of the ink, Brantley continues to fly under the radar of most fans.
Brantley isn’t flashy, and his four career postseason home runs are as many as Tucker has this season alone. However, the Houston offense doesn’t work without his steady bat near the top of the order.
In the 10-1 win to close out the ALDS, Brantley had three hits and drove in a pair of runs. Then, as Houston was climbing out of a 2-1 deficit to Boston in the ALCS, he came through with four hits, four RBI while scoring a pair of runs to send the series back to H-Town for the clincher.
If the Astros want to claim their second world championship, they’ll have to do what the Dodgers were unable to do…score. The Dodgers averaged 2.5 runs per game in their four losses to Atlanta.
The series begins within the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park, but games 3-5 will be played by National League rules, meaning one of Houston’s hitters will have to take a seat.
It’s doubtful it will be Brantley.
Dusty Baker will likely rely on the man who hit .378 in interleague play, compiling 17 hits in 12 games.
Baker understands NL strategy and the importance of getting into a team’s bullpen early. Brantley will have to set the table for the rest of the lineup, just as he has all season long.
It’s a role that Brantley has excelled at, and earned him respect as a “professional hitter.”
So, when the battle for the Commissioner’s Trophy commences on Tuesday night, be sure to keep an eye on the man who speaks softly, but comes up with big hits.
One of MLBbro.com’s first videos when we launched in April on Opening Day was about Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker and the role he played in inventing the “High Five” as a player on the Dodgers in the 70s.
Dusty was one of four Dodgers players to hit 30 homers that season.