The Atlanta Braves jumped out to an early lead in Game 5 but watched it slip away in a 9-5 loss to the Houston Astros. Atlanta still holds a 3-2 edge in the series which will resume Tuesday in Houston.
The Braves needed to put some pressure on the Astros and Framber Valdez and they did just that in the first. Jorge Soler singled off the glove of Alex Bregman to get things started. After a fly out by Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies grounded into a fielder’s choice but beat the relay throw at first to prolong the inning. Austin Riley followed with a single and then Eddie Rosario worked a walk to load the bases. That would bring Adam Duvall to the plate who jumped on a 95 mph sinker and drove it out to right center for a grand slam to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead.
Houston answered against Davidson in the second. Yuli Gurriel hit a one-out single and then moved to second on a walk by Kyle Tucker. Alex Bregman, who was dropped to seventh in the order, doubled to the gap in right center. Gurriel scored to cut Atlanta’s lead to 4-1. The Astros weren’t finished as Martin Maldonado lifted a sacrifice fly to center that scored Tucker to make it 4-2. Despite giving up the grand slam in the first, Dusty Baker allowed Valdez to hit for himself and Davidson struck him out to end the inning.
Dansby Swanson grounded out to start the second and Brian Snitker elected to leave Davidson in to hit for himself. Snitker said before the game that they weren’t going to treat Davidson as an opener and would let him go as far as he could. He struck out and then Soler grounded out to send the game to the third.
Jose Altuve reached on an error by Swanson to begin the third. Davidson then walked Brantley to put runners at first and second. He was replaced by Jesse Chavez who promptly allowed a double to Carlos Correa to make it 4-3. Chavez got Yordan Alvarez to fly out for the first out. Gurriel then grounded back up the middle to Swanson who threw to first for the second out. Brantley scored on the play to tie game. Chavez got Bregman to fly out to escape further damage.
Given the success Atlanta has had with bullpen games this postseason, sending Davidson back out for the third was an odd choice and it would loom large over the remainder of the game.
After retiring the side in order in the second, Baker stuck with Valdez to start the third. Freeman led off the inning with a monstrous 460 foot home run to right center to put the Braves back in front 5-4.
Valdez retired Albies and Austin Riley but then issued another free pass to Rosario. That would be it for him as he was replaced by Yimi Garcia who struck out Duvall for the final out.
Chavez stayed in to start the fourth for Atlanta. Maldonado began the inning with a ground out. Zack Greinke then pinch-hit for Garcia and singled to right. Chavez got Altuve to fly out and then gave way to A.J. Minter who blew away Brantley with a 96 mph heater to end the frame.
Baker then went to their scheduled Game 6 starter Jose Urquidy. Travis d’Arnaud singled to lead off the inning. Swanson flew out for the first out. Rather than burn Minter after facing just one hitter, he hit for himself and popped up a bunt attempt for the second out. Soler grounded to Altuve for the third out.
Minter quickly found himself in trouble in the fifth as Correa got things started with a single. Alvarez struck out but Gurriel singled again to put runners at first and second. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a ground out by Tucker. The Braves then elected to walk Bregman to load the bases and face Maldonado. However, Minter fell behind 3-1 and then walked him to force in the tying run.
Things would get worse for the Braves as pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez dumped a single to left that scored both Gurriel and Bregman to make it 7-5. Minter was replaced by Chris Martin who struck out Altuve to bring the inning to an end.
Riley doubled with two outs off of Phil Maton in the fifth but Rosario grounded out to leave him stranded. Martin stayed in for the sixth and sat the Astros down in order. d’Arnaud reached on a one out single in the bottom of the sixth but Maton struck out Swanson and then got pinch-hitter Joc Pederson to pop out in foul territory.
Trailing by two runs, the Braves went to Drew Smyly for the seventh. He struck out Gurriel to begin the inning but Tucker followed with a double to the right field corner. Bregman popped out but Maldonado followed with a single that scored Tucker to extend Houston’s lead to 8-5. Smyly then struck out Chas McCormick but the Astros tacked on another run to the lead.
The Astros tacked on another run in the eighth. Jose Altuve singled but was then picked off however, Freeman’s throw to second was late. He advanced to third on a ground out by Brantley and then scored on a single by Correa to make it 9-5. Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless eighth and ninth for the Astros to close it out.
The Braves will have Monday to regroup before the series resumes in Houston Tuesday.