Atlanta struggles to win, but loses an ace

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HOUSTON – Atlanta entered its first World Series since 1999 in a clean, quick and memorable way. Jorge Soler detonated Framber Valdez’s third pitch of the game over the left-field fence, putting an immediate charge in the 117th World Series: it was the first time in Series history that the first hitter of the match marked a home run.

Valdez, who left a 2-0 cursor over the plate, failed to regain his balance as Atlanta poured him out from there. Every Atlanta hitter has had at least one hit by the end of the night. By the end of the third inning, Atlanta had scored five times, Valdez had been chased and the Astros were on course to lose their fifth straight home game in the World Series.

The 6-2 final score was a solid representation of how things turned out, with Atlanta mostly comfortable after Soler’s strike.

“Everyone knows what it’s like to grow up thinking about playing in the World Series,” said Atlanta wide receiver Travis d’Arnaud. “I mean, I’m sure everyone was a little anxious when the game started, and for Soler to put us 1-0, I think it made everyone relax and breathe and we just reminded to be ourselves. “

Trouble, however, may lurk for Atlanta despite its relatively easy win in front of 42,825 fans at Minute Maid Park. Starter Charlie Morton, like Valdez, was forced out of the game earlier. But for Morton, who started World Series games for three teams, the start was not performance-related. Instead, a Yuli Gurriel comebacker crashed into his right shin in the second inning, and although Morton remained in the game to get three more strikeouts, the pitcher later fractured his fibula. Atlanta was quick to announce that Morton will miss the rest of this World Series, but should be ready to go by spring training.

But as Atlanta lost Morton, it won Soler. The 6-foot-4 slugger was acquired from Kansas City in July, but was placed on the Covid-19 injured list earlier in the playoffs, October 12-21. Tuesday marked his return to the starting lineup and, as the game took place in an American League park, Atlanta was able to use him as a designated hitter. Soler had only led once in his career before manager Brian Snitker brought him into that slot for the last 11 games of the regular season.

So he was a relatively new lead man who did something that no one else had done in a World Series. Previously, four more had hit starting homers in the lower half of the first inning: Chris Taylor of the Dodgers (2017), Alcides Escobar of Kansas City (2015), Dustin Pedroia of Boston (2007) and Don Buford of Baltimore (1969). ).

“I’m very happy, obviously,” Soler said through translator Franco Garcia afterwards. “My family and I were both very happy. To be honest, I didn’t know it was a thing until I was told a bit later in the game.

It left his teammates energized, in awe and even bewildered.

“What I was really thinking is how do they know that?” said center fielder Adam Duvall. “That’s what I want to know.”

Duvall added, “It’s pretty amazing that we can find all of these things. What’s even more amazing is that the game has been played for so long and there are still the first players to do something about it. It’s pretty cool. Very neat.

“I guess there will be a day when there aren’t any more firsts.”

This day was not Tuesday. And for Atlanta, Soler’s historic accomplishment and smooth transition to first place are just a few things added to a long list that has worked wonderfully. The white-hot National League champions have won 20 of their last 25 games dating back to Sept. 19 in San Francisco and have beaten rivals 125-74 in that streak, a dominant points differential of plus-51.

Some of the recipe for this achievement was used here in the first game. Atlanta regularly ambushed its opponents in the opening innings, racking up 110 points in the regular season, sixth in the majors standings. The Soler circuit continued this assault, then Arnaud scored on the choice of the outfielder of Soler to crash into the shortstop in the second period. Duvall notched a two-run homer to left field in the third.

It was the Duvall circuit that sent Valdez to the showers, and it was hardly a surprise when it happened. Valdez produced the majors’ highest ground ball percentage (70.3%) in 2021, but only had two ground ball strikeouts out of 15 batters faced. Every Atlanta hard drive and broken flying bullet served as a warning that trouble was brewing. When Valdez left, the average exit speed against him was 99.3 miles per hour.

“I wouldn’t say it was too nervous because it was just the emotion of the situation, being the starter of the World Series opener, being the starter of the World Series Astros,” Valdez said via by translator Andrew. Dunn-Bauman. “I think that was it more than anything. Maybe it was trying to do a little too much, to throw a little too hard. I was in the area but not exactly where I wanted it to be. Not where the receiver wanted it either.

Atlanta kicked off Valdez for eight hits and five runs on 15 batters. Although Atlanta struck out 12 batters, every batter in the lineup had a hit. Atlanta became the first team to have all nine starting players to have at least one hit in a World Series game from Kansas City in Game 6 in 2014. Although this is the 25th time in the World Series that a team accomplishes the feat, like Soler. homer, this was the first time this had happened in a match 1.

“For all of us, getting a hit today is pretty cool,” said d’Arnaud. “That’s a really cool statistic, especially against the Astros’ excellent pitching staff. It’s huge with Game 2 coming tomorrow, and we can just build on that momentum.

Atlanta did almost everything right, including executing a key defensive play to end the eighth inning with the score 6-2. Gurriel burned a line high up the left field wall and Eddie Rosario played it perfectly, turning and shooting a strike at second base Ozzie Albies to nail Gurriel at second.

The Braves hadn’t played at Minute Maid Park since 2017, and on Monday’s practice day, Eric Young, a team coach, rounded up all the outfielders and hit fungos on various parts of the wall. left and central left pitch.

“It’s one of the toughest outfields in the big leagues, just the way he bounces off the surfaces,” Duvall said of baseball. “There are six different surfaces: the upholstery, the fence, the brick, the dashboard, the metal of the dashboard. So yeah, I mean we’ve tried to figure it all out and tried to figure out where we need to be when it bounces off the wall.

He added: “It’s part of what we do. We try to cover all the little things because the little things turn into big things in games like this.


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