World Series Live Updates: Houston Halves Atlanta’s Lead After Grand Slam

ImageAlex Bregman, who had been moved down in the batting order, drove home a run with a double in the top of the second inning.
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Houston clawed back two runs, and even better they did with help from a pair of slumping bats.

After Yordan Alvarez flied out to left, Yuli Gurriel singled on a liner to center and Kyle Tucker drew a walk. That brought up third baseman Alex Bregman, who has been struggling badly, and he doubled to center, bringing home Gurriel to make it 4-1.

With runners on second and third with one out, the extremely light-hitting catcher Martín Maldonado hit a sacrifice fly to center, bringing Tucker home to make it 4-2.

But Tucker Davidson was able to limit the damage by striking out pitcher Framber Valdez to end the inning.

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Atlanta greeted the plate appearance of Alex Bregman, dropped to No. 7 in today’s lineup, with the organist playing “Free Fallin’.” Then fans started chanting: “Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” He doubled in a run.

Martín Maldonado’s sacrifice fly makes it 4-2.

The light-hitting catcher hit the ball deep enough to center for Kyle Tucker to tag up and score.

Alex Bregman’s double makes it 4-1.

The slumping third baseman was moved down in the batting order but he came through this time.

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Houston’s mistakes came back to haunt them in that first inning. Adding to his rough World Series at the plate, third baseman Alex Bregman, normally a stout fielder, let a ground ball hit by Jorge Soler to lead off the frame get past him. And when Austin Riley later singled to left field, Yordan Alvarez threw to third base — and not the cut-off man Carlos Correa, Houston’s shortstop — in an attempt to get Ozzie Albies there. This allowed Riley to advance to second easily. Then Eddie Rosario walked and Adam Duvall smashed a grand slam. Perhaps the inning would have unfolded differently if not for those small gaffes.

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Adam Duvall broke this game open in a big way, hitting an opposite field grand slam that has the crowd at Truist Park in an absolute frenzy and has Atlanta leading, 4-0.

Jorge Soler got Atlanta started off by hitting a rocket on the ground to third that Alex Bregman couldn’t handle. After a bit of a delay, it was ruled a single. Freddie Freeman flied out to center on the first pitch he saw and Ozzie Albies hit a grounder to short that forced Soler out at second.

With two outs and a runner on first, Austin Riley singled to left, sending Albies to third. Riley then advanced to second on the throw. That brought up postseason hero Eddie Rosario, whom Framber Valdez wanted no part of. Rosario walked on five pitches, as Valdez stayed away from the strike zone with first base open.

That proved disastrous as Duvall, who led the N.L. in R.B.I. this season, hit the first pitch he saw over the wall in right center, clearing the bases and giving Atlanta a 4-0 lead.

Valdez got out of the inning by retiring Travis d’Arnaud on a grounder to short, but Atlanta is off to a great start in the team’s quest for its first title since 1995.

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I’ve seen more sporting events in Atlanta than I can count. I’ve never heard a stadium here louder than Truist Park after Adam Duvall’s slam.

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Adam Duvall’s grand slam puts Atlanta up, 4-0.

The first pitch he saw from Framber Valdez was shot over the fence in right center.

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Atlanta, which will bat for the first time shortly, has been terrifyingly good at home this postseason: It has won all seven games at Truist Park. A win tonight would tie the record for the franchise’s longest home winning streak in the postseason. That record traces from Oct. 7, 1995 to Oct. 9, 1996. In that stretch, Atlanta won a World Series. No team in M.L.B. history has gone 8-0 at home in a single postseason.

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Tucker Davidson watched Game 1 on TV as he wasn’t on Atlanta’s roster and only has five career major league starts. Asked to join the team after Charlie Morton’s leg injury and start what could be a decisive Game 5, he looked extremely sharp.

Davidson fought through a six-pitch at-bat with Jose Altuve, retiring the All-Star second baseman on a pop-up to shallow left that was caught by shortstop Dansby Swanson. He walked Michael Brantley but then got some help from a struggling Carlos Correa, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.

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We’ve now seen the first pitch of Game 5: a strike, on an 87-mile-an-hour slider, from Atlanta’s Tucker Davidson.

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ATLANTA — Dusty Baker hinted after Game 4 that he might shake up the Astros’ batting order and he did that before Game 5 by dropping Alex Bregman from third to seventh. Carlos Correa replaced Bregman in the third spot.

Bregman has one single in 17 at-bats in the World Series and he has looked befuddled at the plate.

“Like all my players, I have a discussion with them prior to making a move and telling him why and reinforce to him that he’s not the scapegoat here,” Baker said, “that there’s a few guys struggling in our lineup.”

Baker noted that Atlanta has been pitching around Yordan Alvarez, the No. 4 hitter, and Yuli Gurriel, who moved into the No. 5 spot.

Bregman took extra batting practice before Game 5.

“There’s no problem with him moving,” Baker said. “This is hopefully a temporary situation until we get back home and get our full complement in the lineup together with the D.H.”

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It’s going to look like the 1990s here for a few moments this evening: Greg Maddux is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and Eddie Pérez, who spent years catching for Maddux, is planning to be behind the plate. I ran into Pérez on the field after batting practice and couldn’t resist asking what he thought Maddux might throw. “He’s the one who called pitches, so we’ll see what he wants to call,” Pérez said with a laugh. “I hope he warms up so he can throw a strike.”

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Freddie Freeman played his first World Series game in Atlanta on Friday. He might be playing his last one tonight.

The 32-year-old cornerstone of the Atlanta franchise is poised to enter free agency after the series ends.

“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Freeman said on Friday of his tenure with Atlanta, where he made his major league debut in 2010. “But it is a little weird that by next Sunday, Monday, I could be a free agent.”

But, he added, “I think everyone in this room knows I want to stay here.”

Atlanta has made clear that it would like to retain Freeman, who in 2014 signed an eight-year deal valued at $135 million. The winner of the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2020, Freeman has a .295 career average and 271 home runs to his name. And at 6 feet, 5 inches, his stretches from first base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2018, have spared Atlanta plenty of errors.

“He means a lot to this franchise, to me personally, to our organization, to that clubhouse, our team,” Brian Snitker, Atlanta’s manager, said on Friday. “There isn’t a way to quantify it — just what he brings is so important.”

Although Chipper Jones famously played his entire career in an Atlanta uniform, the franchise has also seen other celebrated players slip away.

The stars of the Atlanta rotation in the 1990s — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz — all played elsewhere, at least for a spell, after their biggest years as Braves. (Glavine, who went to the Mets for five seasons, returned to Atlanta for his final year. Smoltz spent the 2009 season with Boston and St. Louis before retiring. Both are wearing Atlanta caps on their Hall of Fame plaques.)

Brian McCann, a seven-time All-Star, left Atlanta after the 2013 season, played for the Yankees and the Astros, and then came back to Atlanta for his final year. And, of course, Hank Aaron played his final two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Snitker said he “absolutely” wanted Freeman to remain with Atlanta. There was a catch, though.

“I also know this is a business,” he said, “and things happen.”

Freeman, for his part, said he had not spent time envisioning playing anywhere else. His focus, he said, was the World Series.

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Former President Donald J. Trump got a lot of attention when he attended Game 4 on Saturday and joined in Atlanta’s tomahawk chop chant, which has been widely condemned as racist and offensive to Native Americans. But the former president who has been an Atlanta fan for decades, Jimmy Carter, has been absent. Carter, who turned 97 this month and threw out the first pitch on the night Atlanta won the 1995 World Series, rarely makes public appearances these days. But Jason Carter, one of his grandsons, said in text messages on Sunday that his grandfather had been watching the games on television and had been delighted by Atlanta’s bullpen. “He once called me at 6:00 a.m. in shock and sadness when they traded Craig Kimbrel,” Jason Carter said. “So he’s been loving [Tyler] Matzek and the Night Shift.”

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ATLANTA — Even at the World Series, there can be time for teasing and laughter between moments fraught with tension. Tim Flannery checked in to say hello to Ron Washington, the third-base coach for Atlanta, and to inquire about Washington’s fungo bat.

Flannery was San Francisco’s third-base coach and Washington was Texas’ manager back when the Giants and Rangers met in the 2010 World Series, and Flannery recalls “threatening to steal his fungo bat” and a cackling Washington hiding it from him.

All these years later, Washington couldn’t recall that exact threat, but he did reveal that he has retired that old fungo.

“I had to put it down, it was too heavy,” Washington said. “It was messing up my shoulder. I swung a heavy fungo.”

Washington, 69, said he started using that particular fungo bat in the spring of 1997, and one would probably need a high-powered computer to calculate exactly how many ground balls it whacked to how many infielders who needed work over the years.

But Washington’s lead shoulder — his left one — eventually started aching from all the work he was putting in.

“I put it down after the 2018 season,” Washington said. “And I went to the SSK fungo bat because it was lighter.”

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Dusty Baker, Houston’s manager, was asked today what he’s figured out about keeping tensions in check during postseason games and answered with advice he’d received from Japan’s foremost slugger. “You’ve got to slow your heart down,” he said. “Sadaharu Oh told me a few years ago that you have to have the burning desire to succeed in your heart but the coolness of mind to control your heart. So I’ve learned to do that through breathing.”

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ATLANTA — The Houston Astros led the majors in runs scored and batting average in the regular season — and averaged six runs per game in the American League Championship Series — but over the last two games, Houston has gone hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position and has stranded 17 runners on base, including 11 in Game 4.

The top five batters in the lineup — Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa — have combined to go 5 for 36 in those two games for a .139 batting average.

Astros Manager Dusty Baker said that to stay alive in the Series, his players will rely on their vast postseason experience, and a belief that just because the situation is dire does not mean they will acquiesce.

“How small is your faith if you just crumble under every circumstance?” he said. “You’ve got to have faith that you can do it, and it will get done.”

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Need a reason to watch when one team has a lead of three games to one? The 2016 Chicago Cubs offer one: They trailed by the same margin and won the World Series. “That group was a resilient group, and we never gave up and we were able to overcome,” said Jorge Soler, who was on that Cubs team and now plays for Atlanta. His pinch-hit home run was the difference for his club in Saturday’s Game 4. Teams have been down three games to one in the World Series 48 times before; seven of them, including the Cubs, ultimately won it all anyway. We’re expecting first pitch at about 8:15 p.m. Eastern time; Fox will carry the game.

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Once a baseball man, always a baseball man.

Bobby Cox, whose decades as Atlanta’s manager propelled him into the Hall of Fame, has not been at the ballpark this year. But Cox, 80, who had a stroke in April 2019, has been watching from his home nearby — and adhering to baseball’s reverence for rituals.

On Sunday night, the ritual will be the dinner menu — hot dogs and popcorn — that has been a staple of the Cox household’s 2021 postseason.

“Bobby is superstitious,” his wife, Pam Cox, said in a text message on Sunday. “If we’re winning, you can’t make any changes.”

Although Cox retired in 2010, he has maintained a deep influence over the Atlanta franchise. Atlanta’s current manager, Brian Snitker, has long seen Cox as a mentor, and Cox was instrumental in his hiring in 2016.

That relationship has endured during Cox’s recovery, when Snitker has made regular visits to see the ailing former manager, even during a postseason run in which Atlanta has, so far, been undefeated at home.

Those trips have come as little surprise to stalwarts of the Atlanta franchise who see Snitker regularly and have watched his work closely in recent years.

“Everything he knows is from Bobby,” said Eddie Pérez, who was a catcher for Cox and coached under both Cox and Snitker. “He spent so many years in the minor leagues, and guess who was in the big league? Bobby Cox, teaching everybody how to do everything.”

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Batting practice is back! After some miserable weather at Truist Park on Friday and Saturday — brisk, sometimes quite wet and not very befitting of an ordinary October in Georgia — both teams were able to swing outside today. As Eddie Pérez, the former Atlanta catcher who still throws some batting practice pitches for the team, said as he headed off the field: “This is playoff weather, World Series weather.”

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ATLANTA — Ted Barrett is expected to be tonight’s home plate umpire here at Truist Park.

You might remember him from the 2018 World Series, when he called balls and strikes for 18 innings in Game 3, or when he worked David Cone’s perfect game in 1999, or when he tossed Bobby Cox from a game and pushed the longtime Atlanta manager into the history books for the most major league ejections.

But you might also remember him from an article we published in September, when we wrote about his role in a prayer call for umpires and his faith’s central role in his life.

“To stand out there in front of 50,000 people and call balls and strikes as you’re getting picked apart on TV, to me, it’s impossible to do this job well, so I rely on God to do it for me,” Barrett said this year, offering an umpire’s version of a common refrain among Christians. “We talk about this a lot on our crew: Prepare the best you can, and then go out and do the best you can, and let God take care of the rest.”

The other umpires who will be calling Game 5: Dan Bellino, Chris Conroy, Tom Hallion, Ron Kulpa and Alfonso Marquez. Mike Muchlinski, who is poised to work the plate if the series returns to Houston for Game 6 on Tuesday, has the night off.

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Tucker Davidson, a Wednesday addition to Atlanta’s World Series roster, will open Game 5 for Atlanta, which will rely on its bullpen to navigate the night.

It will be the first career postseason appearance for Davidson, who replaced Charlie Morton for the Series after Morton left Game 1 with a fractured right leg.

In fact, Davidson, a 25-year-old left-hander, has little experience of any kind in the major leagues. He has appeared in just five games for Atlanta in the last two seasons and started four games in 2021, when he allowed 15 hits and eight earned runs over 20 innings.

He has not played in a major league game since June 15, when he exited during an appearance against Boston. He later went on the injured list with forearm trouble but avoided Tommy John surgery.

“We’ll just go with him as long as he’ll let us take him,” Brian Snitker, Atlanta’s manager, said on Sunday.

Snitker added that Davidson was “ready,” his inexperience and troubles this year aside.

“He’s another one that he’s been through all the levels of all our organization, and we really liked what we saw out of him early in the year before he had his problems,” Snitker said.

Houston is deploying Framber Valdez, a left-hander who started Game 1 and took the loss. In two innings in Houston on Tuesday, he gave up eight hits and five runs. But in Valdez’s previous postseason start, Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against Boston, the Red Sox mustered just three hits during his eight innings.

“I just can’t get too wrapped up in the bad things that happen in the outing beforehand,” Valdez said on Saturday. “Just like the last time I went through this, you acknowledge the bad things that happened and focus on what kind of adjustments you can make, just like I did last time. I’ll make those same kind of adjustments, especially staying down in the zone. That’s a big one for me that I wanted to focus on.”

Although Atlanta won Game 4 on Saturday, its first pitcher of the night, Dylan Lee, did not fare especially well in his first start in the major leagues. He threw 15 pitches, only five of them strikes, and gave up a hit and two walks in one-third of an inning.

After the game, Snitker defended Lee’s outing.

“His command was off a little bit than what I’ve seen before, which is understandable,” he said. “My God, we put him in an unbelievable situation.”

Now the day’s tall order is falling to Davidson.

“Tuck’s got a lot of nerves going on,” Will Smith, Atlanta’s closer, said. “But you sign up for it. It comes with the territory.”

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Did you see Zack Greinke’s single last night? Don’t count on seeing many pitchers other than Shohei Ohtani at the plate after Game 5 — like, maybe ever.

If the Series returns to Houston for Game 6, and perhaps a Game 7, the designated hitter rule will be in effect at the American League ballpark. And if the series ends tonight, attention will quickly turn toward the fate of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, which is scheduled to expire in December.

A subject of negotiation: adoption of a universal designated hitter.

If the D.H. takes effect across baseball for next season, instead of only in the A.L., Sunday’s game will be the last time pitchers were required to take a place in the batting order.

“Take the brutality, so to speak, of what pitcher hitting has become, and I still feel like it allows for way more strategy in the National League,” Tom Glavine, the Hall of Fame left-hander and one of the best-hitting pitchers of his generation, said a few days ago. “I’m hoping that that part of the argument will certainly be a strong one, but it seems now that there’s more momentum than ever to get rid of it.”

Dusty Baker, Houston’s manager, also voiced support in recent days to keep the rules as they have been since 1973: a D.H. in the American League, and pitchers hitting in the National League.

“Let the D.H. stand in the American League, and in the National League play the National League style of ball because they’re both interesting in its own fact,” Baker said on Saturday afternoon.

“The reason why I’m not for the D.H. in both leagues is because D.H. is kind of hurting some of the kids that are coming up that don’t want to play a position that just want to D.H. at 12 or 13 or 14, and you go to a Little League game or you go to a Little League practice, and after they hit, they’re ready to go home,” he added. “There’s more to the game than just hitting if you’re going to be a ballplayer.”

There are, of course, some pitchers eager to avoid walking into the batter’s box again.

“I’m always late to the on-deck circle, just because I need to unplug for a minute, and I like to worry about the job that I have to do on the mound,” said Charlie Morton, who started Game 1 for Atlanta. “That’s what I’m paid to do, that’s what I’m prepared to do, spend the vast majority of my time doing. They’re paying guys lots of money and guys are working their tails off trying to be good hitters, and I’m up there taking at-bats.”

He may get his wish.

As for Greinke, he had a two-word response when a reporter asked him after Saturday’s game what he thought of maybe being the last pitcher to record a hit in the World Series.

“We’ll see.”

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Other than a slightly later start time, the details of how to watch Sunday’s potentially decisive Game 5 are the same as they have been for previous games in the Series.

  • Who: The Houston Astros vs. the Atlanta Braves

  • What: Game 5 of the 2021 World Series

  • When: 8:15 p.m. Eastern time

  • Where: Truist Park in suburban Atlanta

  • Watch: The game will be broadcast on Fox and will be streamed on as well as streaming services like FuboTV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV.

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