World Series score: Astros even series vs. Braves with Game 2 win behind Jose Altuve,

The Houston Astros on Wednesday evened the best-of-seven 2021 World Series at 1-1 with their 7-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.  The Astros took a first-inning lead on an Alex Bregman sac fly that plated Jose Altuve. The Braves swiftly tied it on a solo home run from catcher Travis d’Arnaud in the top of the second, but in the home half the Astros took charge for good. Thanks in large measure to five singles off Atlanta ace Max Fried and some speed on the bases, the Astros were able to plate four runs in the inning. 

In the seventh, Jose Altuve added some insurance with a solo home run. It was the 22nd postseason home run of his career. He also doubled in Game 2. Elsewhere in the lineup, Michael Brantley notched a multi-hit game in the postseason for the 18th time in his career. 

On the pitching side, Houston starter Jose Urquidy gave them five innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts and no walks. After his exit, four relievers — Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Ryan Pressly, and Kendall Graveman — combined for four scoreless to secure the victory for the Astros. 

After a travel day on Thursday, the series shifts to Truist Park outside Atlanta for Games 3, 4, and 5. With the series knotted up after two, it’s in essence now a best-of-five series with the Braves’ holding home-field advantage the rest of the way. The stakes will indeed be high on Friday night for Game 3, as teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven postseason series in MLB have gone on to win that series more than 70 percent of the time.

Now for takeaways from World Series Game 2.

The bottom of Houston’s lineup had an impact

After Game 1, a quick start was imperative for the Astros in Game 2, and they indeed struck early. Houston manufactured a first-inning run on a Jose Altuve double, a Michael Brantley fly out, and an Alex Bregman sacrifice fly. Altuve and Bregman have struggled most of the postseason, so those two contributing early in Game 2 was a welcome sight for the ‘Stros.

It should be noted there has now been a first-inning run scored in seven consecutive World Series games, tying the longest such streak in history. There was also a first inning run scored in seven straight World Series games from 1926-27. The last World Series game with a scoreless first inning was Game 1 last year.

The Astros really got to Braves lefty Max Fried in the second inning. Four of the first five and five of the first seven batters they sent to the plate recorded singles, and to be fair to Fried, they were well-placed singles more than well-struck. The exit velocities: 94.4 mph, 84.2 mph, 51.5 mph, 89.1 mph, and 101.3 mph. Only the fifth single of the inning was really squared up.

No. 8 hitter Jose Siri and No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado were responsible for the two most important plays in Houston’s four-run second inning. Siri beat out an infield single with runners on the corners to give the Astros a 2-1 lead, then Maldonado pulled a ground ball through the left side to score two runs. Siri scored all the way from first base on Eddie Rosario’s wild throw.

Siri spent most of the year in Triple-A and did not make his MLB debut until Sept. 3. Astros manager Dusty Baker said he put Siri in the Game 2 lineup because he likes his energy and the team looked flat in Game 1, and Siri’s energy was evident on his infield single. He is the first player in history to record an RBI in the World Series after making his MLB debut that September.

As for Maldonado, he’s in the lineup for elite glove and arm behind the plate, not his bat. He hit .172/.272/.300 during the regular season and was 2 for 31 (.065) in the postseason going into Game 2. Anything Maldonado gives the Astros offensively is a bonus, and his third hit of the postseason came at an opportune time. It helped Houston build an early 5-1 lead.

To Fried’s credit, he settled down after the second inning and retired 10 consecutive batters at one point, including five via strikeout. Fried did not look long for Game 2 in that second inning, yet he was able to soak up five innings one night after Charlie Morton’s broken leg forced the Braves bullpen to pick up 6 2/3 innings in Game 1.

Altuve moved up the home run leaderboard

Overall, it has been a difficult postseason for Altuve. He had three hits in ALDS Game 4 against the White Sox and then three hits total in his next seven games, going 3 for 29 (.103) from ALCS Game 1 through World Series Game 1. Altuve seemed to snap out of his funk in Game 2 on Wednesday, opening the first inning with a double and then hitting a home run in the seventh.

Altuve had two hits in Game 2 after recording only three hits in his previous seven games. Also, the home run was the 22nd of his postseason career, tied for second most in history. Here is the postseason home run leaderboard:

1. Manny Ramirez: 29 homers (in 493 plate appearances)
T2. Bernie Williams: 22 homers (in 545 plate appearances)
T2. Jose Altuve: 22 homers (in 345 plate appearances)
4. Derek Jeter: 20 homers (in 734 plate appearances)
5. Albert Pujols and George Springer tied with 19

In the postseason, Altuve is averaging one home run every 15.7 plate appearances. He’s averaged one homer every 38.7 plate appearances in the regular season, and one homer every 26.7 regular season plate appearances during his 2016-21 power peak. This year’s seven-game slump notwithstanding, Altuve raises his game in the postseason. No doubt. 

Urquidy was solid

For only the fourth time in 12 postseason games, an Astros starter completed five innings. José Urquidy was rock solid in Game 2, occasionally dominant, and he held the Braves to two runs in five innings. He struck out seven in only his second start in the last 24 days (Urquidy went 1 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in ALCS Game 3).

Urquidy’s seven strikeouts are tied with Charlie Morton (Game 4 in 2017) and Brandon Backe (Game 4 in 2005) for the third most ever by an Astros pitcher in the World Series. Only Justin Verlander (nine in Game 6 in 2017) and Gerrit Cole (nine in Game 5 in 2019) had more. That’s some good company for Urquidy.

Despite Framber Valdez’s two-inning start in Game 1, Houston’s bullpen was in good shape in Game 2 because Jake Odorizzi chewed up 2 1/3 innings in relief. The Astros had their top three relievers — Cristian Javier, Kendall Graveman, and Ryan Pressly — rested and lined up to finish the game following Urquidy’s five-inning effort.

Following Game 2, the Astros have now gotten 45 innings from their starters and 61 innings from their relievers in the postseason. That sounds unsustainable, and it might prove to be when it’s all said and done, but Houston is now only three wins from a World Series…

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