The tens of thousands of Braves fans who gathered at Game 5 on Sunday night to witness their team’s first coronation in 26 years were subjected instead to a resurrection. An Astros team that had been invisible on offense for much of this World Series overcame a first-inning grand slam from Adam Duvall and a go-ahead third-inning solo homer from Freddie Freeman by cranking out one heartbreaking hit after another in a 9-5 victory that sends this Fall Classic back to Houston for Tuesday’s Game 6, with the Braves up 3-2.
The Astros won this one the hard way. They didn’t get a sterling start from Framber Valdez. They didn’t hit a home run. They had to explore the lengths of their lineup and their bench, getting production not just from a star like Carlos Correa, who knocked in a pair, but from totally unexpected places — most notably the three RBIs from catcher Martín Maldonado.
But the Astros did what they had to do. They became the first road team to beat the Braves in this postseason, and they avoided elimination. They still have a chance to become just the seventh team in 47 tries — and the first since the 2016 Cubs — to win it all after falling behind 3-1 in a best-of-seven World Series.
“We were down 3-0 last year [to the Rays in the American League Championship Series], we forced a Game 7,” Correa said. “Now we [were] down 3-1, why can’t we force a Game 7 again?”
Houston’s three-run fifth inning against a previously untouchable A.J. Minter stunted the celebratory atmosphere that had been built by the Braves’ tight wins in Games 3 and 4 and an early offensive eruption for Atlanta on this night.
Just six batters into the ballgame, the Braves went up 4-0 on the might of Duvall’s 377-foot grand slam over the high right-field wall. Valdez had shakily surrendered two singles and a walk to load the bases, and Duvall, one of the many in-season acquisitions who had allowed Atlanta to overcome the absence of Ronald Acuña Jr. and reach this stage, made him pay.
For the second straight game, they faced a Braves starter unknown to them and pretty much anybody, with Tucker Davidson getting an assignment like the one given to fellow fresh face Dylan Lee a day earlier. The Astros got to Davidson in the second by putting two aboard for the struggling Alex Bregman, who had been moved down to the seventh spot in the batting order but delivered an RBI double to right-center. Maldonado followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Facing Drew Smyly, the Astros padded their lead in the seventh (when Tucker doubled and Maldonado struck yet again with an RBI single) and again in the eighth (when Altuve singled, stole second and scored on a Correa’s second RBI hit).
With Yimi García, Game 2 starter José Urquidy, Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek and Kendall Graveman all coming up big out of the bullpen, the Astros methodically canceled the coronation, one out and one run at a time.
Losing this fight at home, with the chance to clinch their first World Series title since 1995, was a bummer for the Braves.
Now, it’s back to Houston, where the Braves will hope to relocate their celebration and where the Astros look to prove their resurrection is for real.