After taking an early lead in Game 1 and riding that to victory, the Atlanta Braves were looking for more of the same Wednesday night. However, this time it was the Houston Astros who struck early and used that advantage to even the series with a 7-2 win in Game 2. The Braves had some defensive mistakes that compounded the problems but at the end of the day, their offense just didn’t do enough.
Still, when you take a look at the entirety of the situation, leaving Houston with at least a split was the exact outcome that Atlanta was hoping for.
“When we came in, you want to split,” Brian Snitker said after Game 2. “Obviously, you want to win two, but if you get out of here with a split, then that’s a good thing going home.”
Jose Altuve led off the game with a double into the left field corner. He moved over to third on a deep fly ball by Michael Brantley. He eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Bregman to give Houston a 1-0 lead. Travis d’Arnaud tied the game in the top of the second with a solo shot off of Jose Urquidy, but the Astros went right back to work against Fried.
Fried struck out Carlos Correa to begin the second but then allowed back-to-back singles to Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel beat the shift inside outing a pitch through the right side to put runners at first and third with one out. Jose Siri followed with a swinging bunt that he beat out, Tucker scored to give the Astros back the lead. Martin Maldonado then singled to left scoring Gurriel and Siri as Eddie Rosario threw to third base which was unoccupied for an error. Brantley capped off the inning with a single to right that scored Maldonado and suddenly the Braves were down 5-1.
“I’m having a hard time convincing myself that he struggled.” Snitker said when asked about Fried’s outing. “The first inning, they did some really good hitting. The second inning, when they scored, it was kind of a weird inning, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like he was getting banged around. Balls that found holes, checked swings, we threw a ball away. It was just a weird inning.”
The exit velocities from the inning bear that out. 94.4 and 84.2 for Tucker and Gurriel, 51.5 on Siri’s infield single and 89.1 for Maldonado. It is worth remembering that Houston is a good offensive team that led the majors in runs scored, wRC+ and fWAR. Holding that offense down was always going to be a challenge.
“I thought his stuff was really good,” Snitker added of Fried. “He ended up throwing a lot of pitches for the five innings he was out there, but God, it could have been very easily a different outcome for him, I think, especially that second inning.”
The Braves added a run in the fifth to cut the deficit to 5-2 but that was as close as they would get. If there were any positive takeaways it was that they were able to cover the final three innings without using any of their key relievers. Despite his second inning struggles, Fried pitched into the sixth although he left after the first two batters reached in the inning.
“Max going five was really good tonight, especially after that second inning,” Snitker said. “I think the fact that he stretched the game through five into the sixth, it was good. We got some guys some experience in World Series that we may not have and some of our key guys are going to have two days rest going into the next three games, which I think will be good.”
Lefty Dylan Lee, who made his first appearance of the season in the majors during the final weekend of the regular season, retired two batters in the sixth and looked good. Kyle Wright, whose last major league start came at the end of June, struck out the side in the ninth.
Unheralded arms like Lee, Wright and Tucker Davidson, who replaced the injured Charlie Morton on the roster Wednesday, are going to be important as this series unfolds. They are going to find themselves in big spots and the Braves are going to need them to perform.
“The bullpen is going to play a big part obviously in what we’ve got going on because we lost a huge starter, Snitker said. “So we’re going to have probably two games in a row that we’re going to pitch 18 innings out of that bullpen.”
Ian Anderson will start Game 3 for Atlanta Friday but the weekend is shaping up for two bullpen games.
“That’s why I think it was so encouraging to see Kyle tonight, just getting in there for that one inning and getting him out there and experiencing this atmosphere because he could play a huge part going forward,” Snitker said of Wright. “I thought he threw the ball extremely well.”
“So we’ll take a day off. We’ve got some guys that have two days off now, and it will be the next three games at home,” he added. “It’s kind of like the whole roster is going to have to be used just because of the situation we’re in. It happens. So we’ll just try and piece it together the best we can.”
The Braves will return home to Truist Park where they are undefeated during the postseason and have won 10 of their last 11 overall. Tickets for the home portion of the series sold out instantly so expect a huge atmosphere.
“I think it’s great. The atmosphere is awesome,” Snitker said of the series shifting to Atlanta. “Like I say, Braves Country is real. That’s why I think it was so important to split here. I mean, realistically, you want to win two, but if you can split and get out of here and go home where we’ve been really good.”