The 2021 World Series kicked off Tuesday night, with the Braves pulling out a shock win on the road in Houston. They blitzed Astros starter Framber Valdez for five runs in two-plus innings, including Jorge Soler’s leadoff home run in the first — the first time ever a player has opened a World Series with a leadoff dinger. The Braves have to feel good about their chances, as the Game 1 winner in the history of best-of-seven postseason series go on to win the series 63.7 percent of the time. Astros fans should not despair yet, however, as home teams who lose Game 1 go on to win Game 2 62.3 percent of the time.
Last night saw Braves southpaw Max Fried face off against Astros righty José Urquidy. Fried was 14-7 in 28 regular season starts with a 3.04 ERA. He cruised through his first two postseason starts, allowing two runs across a pair of six inning outings, however faltered in his most recent start — five runs in 4.2 innings against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS. This Astros lineup presented an intriguing matchup for the lefty. He likes to attack righties up-and-in with the fastball, a zone where the likes of José Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman feast.
Urquidy, on the other hand, missed two-and-a-half months at the end of the regular season with shoulder discomfort. Prior to the injury, he was a prototypical attack pitcher — his 50 percent in-the-zone rate was tops among all pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. He also leans heavily on his heater, meaning he’ll need to be precise against a Braves lineup that mashes the fastball. Let’s see how it all unfolded.
What happened last night?
World Series Game 2
(Series tied 1-1)
The Astros opened the scoring in the first. Altuve reached on a leadoff double and was eventually driven home on a Bregman sacrifice fly to center. The Braves answered right back in the top of the second. Travis d’Arnaud lined a laser beam into the Crawford Boxes for his first home run of the postseason to knot this one up. The parity would be short-lived.
In the bottom half, the Astros put runners on the corners with a pair of one-out groundball singles by Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel. Rookie José Siri legged out an infield single that plated Tucker and restored the Houston lead. Martín Maldonado then pulled a single to left, scoring Gurriel from third. Atlanta left fielder Eddie Rosario threw to third to try to gun down Siri, but Dansby Swanson decided not to cover the base — his second mental lapse in as many games — allowing Siri to score all the way from first and Maldonado to advance to second as the ball rolled to the backstop. Maldonado scored on a two-out single by Michael Brantly, and by the time the dust had settled, the Astros had a 5-1 lead on five singles.
Fried settled down after that nickel-and-dime inning, retiring the next ten batters he faced. However, Urquidy matched him almost step for step, allowing only one additional run in the fifth as d’Arnaud scored on a Freddie Freeman single. Houston knocked Fried from the game in the sixth as Yordan Álvarez and Correa led off with a walk and single respectively. Álvarez came around to score on a Yuli Gurriel fielder’s choice to extend the Houston lead to 6-2.
They had an opportunity to really blow things open in the next frame. Altuve led off with a solo shot to left off Drew Smyly, who went on to load the bases with two outs. However, Smyly struck out Gurriel to hold this one at 7-2 and give the Braves at least a fighting chance to mount a comeback.
That comeback would never materialize, however, as Christian Javier, Phil Maton, Ryan Pressley, and Kendall Graveman combined to give the Astros four innings of one-hit scoreless relief.
What’s on deck?
We have our first off-day of the series as both teams head to Atlanta. With the series tied, Game 3 is a crucial affair — teams that take a 2-1 lead tend to win the World Series around two-thirds of the time.