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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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 Astros have now scored 50 runs this postseason with two out which is second to the 2020 L.A. Dodgers who scored 59.
Now an even greater chess match begins heading into Game 6 because Baker doesn’t have any wiggle room for error.
There are two must-win games left in the series which will test the O.G. ‘s acumen at mixing and matching his bullpen rotation while trying to keep the bats hot with runners in scoring position.