“They’re not going to quit,” Duvall said. “They’re not going to roll over. We’re playing for it all. We’re playing for everything right now. We’re playing for the dreams that we’ve had as a little kid. It’s not going to be easy. This time of the year, all throughout the postseason it’s not going to be easy. You’ve got guys that are willing to run through walls for a win. We’ve got an off day (Monday), travel day, and we’ll turn the page and get back at them.”
The night couldn’t have started more promising. Duvall smacked a grand slam off Framber Valdez to put the Braves up 4-0 in the first inning. But the Braves couldn’t protect the early advantage. Houston tied the game by the completion of the top of the third.
Rookie Tucker Davidson started for the Braves, whose good fortune in bullpen games finally expired. He gave up two runs in the second, cutting the Braves’ lead in half, before Houston reset the game in the third. Shortstop Dansby Swanson, so steady for the Braves all season, committed his second error of the series when he botched a grounder from Jose Altuve to open the frame.
Davidson then walked Michael Brantley, leading manager Brian Snitker to make a pitching change. Carlos Correa greeted Braves reliever Jesse Chavez with an RBI double. Yuli Gurriel’s groundout tied the game.
First baseman Freddie Freeman put the Braves back ahead with a homer – his first in the World Series – in the bottom of the inning. But Freeman’s team didn’t score again.
The Astros spoiled the Braves’ night with a five-run fifth. Lefty A.J. Minter surrendered three hits and walked two (one intentional) in the inning. Correa and Gurriel singled. With two down, the Braves intentionally walked Alex Bregman to bring up Martin Maldonado.
Minter walked Maldonado on five pitches, tying the game. Marwin Gonzalez’s pinch-hit single scored another run and ended Minter’s night. The damage was done.
“I wouldn’t even call it a bad outing,” Minter said. “I felt my stuff was just as sharp tonight as it was in other outings. I felt like I was 1-2, 0-2 on every hitter. Those guys made quality swings on two strikes. I guess I could have made some better pitches with two strikes. … For me, it was just I tried to aim the ball instead of just driving it to the mitt. That’s obviously the one thing I would take back. And then a shot to score two runs, just like that.
“I’m not worried about it. I’ve been pitching good and feeling good. And I’m still feeling good. I’ll be ready to go Game 6.”
After the third inning, the Braves managed three hits. They had only one runner reach scoring position – a two-out double from third baseman Austin Riley in the fifth. The Astros, meanwhile, had an awaited offensive awakening to send the series back to Texas. Houston pounded out 12 hits, nine of which were singles. They were 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position against Braves relievers entering the night; they had four such hits Sunday. They became the fourth team to come back from a deficit of four or more runs in a World Series game.
Braves relievers Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith will have two days rest before Game 6 after sitting out Sunday. Chris Martin gave the Braves 1-1/3 scoreless frames while Drew Smyly covered the final three innings, allowing two runs on five hits.
The Braves’ bid at winning the World Series in front of their fans ended with a thud. It was their first home loss of the postseason (7-1). They fell one win short of tying the home postseason winning streak record set by the 1995 club.
“It would have been great (to win it at home),” Snitker said. “I’ll take it anywhere. I don’t care where we’re at. If we win the World Series, it doesn’t matter where it is. I’d have loved to have done it in front of our fans. Hopefully, we can do it the next couple of days.”
The Braves have Max Fried and, if necessary, Ian Anderson ready for the next two games, but Game 5 will sting. Charlie Morton, who broke his leg in Game 1, would’ve pitched Sunday rather than Davidson and the parade of Braves relievers.
Fried will start for the Braves in Game 6. The Astros will bring back Luis Garcia on short rest.
“I always feel good when Max pitches,” Snitker said. “He always gives you a chance to win. Our bullpen’s in good shape. Max has got full rest and we should be good to go.”