HOUSTON — The Astros are struggling, but on paper, they are still a talented team. They have the track record to match it: They have appeared in seven consecutive American League Championship Series, with two World Series rings in that span.

Over three games this week, the Braves got to see how they stack up against Houston – though the Astros are dealing with injuries. The result was even better than expected.

The Braves went into Minute Maid Park and swept the Astros. On Wednesday, they won 5-4 in comeback fashion in 10 innings.

The Braves are 12-5. They’ve won four games in a row.

Five observations:

1. The Astros entered Wednesday with a 6-13 record. They badly need victories. And with six outs to go, they led the Braves by two runs.

Then the Braves stunned the Astros and those in attendance here.

They scored two runs in the eighth inning and one in the 10th. Raisel Iglesias rolled a game-ending double play.

The Braves should relish this one.

“That’s a really good ballclub,” Max Fried said. “They’re in October and playing deep into October for a reason every year. They’re a really good team, and to be able to come in here and play some good baseball – we had some guys throw the ball really well and put together some really great at-bats against really good arms. Just take it for what it is and go back home, enjoy the off-day and get back at it on Friday.”

In the eighth, the Astros summoned Ryan Pressly – their former closer who lost that role when they signed Josh Hader. Versus Pressly, Michael Harris II led off the inning with a single and Austin Riley hit a ground-rule double.

Harris scored on Matt Olson’s grounder to first – which turned into an error. A couple of batters later, Orlando Arcia drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

Two innings later, Arcia plated the go-ahead run with a two-out single through the left side versus Seth Martinez.

Arcia seems to love the big moments. He’s always poised in them.

Then again, he’s on a team full of guys like that.

“I think that’s just the whole team in general,” Ronald Acuña Jr. said through interpreter Franco García. “I feel like everyone’s focused, pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat. Fortunately, Arcia was able to come through. But in other circumstances, if he can’t come (through), the next man up, we believe he’ll get the job done.”

2. Acuña went 65 at-bats without homering to start this season. And on the 66th, his drought ended.

Facing Astros starter J.P France to lead off the fifth inning, Acuña drilled a first pitch sweeper 422 feet for a home run. It gave the Braves a one-run lead.

“It’s like I’ve said before: I’ve been feeling good the whole time, and I knew it was just a matter of time until the hits started coming,” Acuña said.

On this road trip, Acuña looked better. He hit more balls hard. He got on base and was active.

Despite his homerless drought, Acuña entered Wednesday batting .286 with a .749 OPS, five RBIs and eight stolen bases. His numbers were that of an above-average major leaguer.

And now, the homers might come in bunches.

“You know that he’s as good as anyone in the game,” Fried said. “It’s early. He’s probably got, what, 500 more at-bats? No one here was expecting anything else besides him going out there and continually just taking good ABs. It might not seem like it’s typical Ronald fashion, but I know I looked up today and saw he was hitting .300. It’s exciting and to have him go deep in that part of the ballpark, on that kind of pitch, it’s a good sign.”

3. For most of his outing, Fried fought hard. The Astros certainly pressured him, but he didn’t crack.

Until the fifth.

Fried’s third time through the order didn’t go well. With the Braves up a run, he allowed three consecutive singles – the third of which drove in a run. Then Kyle Tucker smoked a double to right field to bring home a second run.

“The later it went, it just kind of fell off the rails a little bit,” Fried said. “Was not able to execute on fastballs as much as I wanted. It felt like I was falling behind. … When the guys go and they give you a lead and you give it up immediately, it’s something that, looking back, probably bothers me the most – just not being able to get out of that inning, (or) kind of just limiting it.”

Fried finished the fifth, but didn’t go out for the sixth. He didn’t blow up, but he wasn’t crisp. Of Fried’s 96 pitches, only 52 were strikes. He walked four batters.

His ERA is 7.71. But he knows he’s made only four starts.

This is a long season.

“No, absolutely,” he said. “If you were to ask me if I would rather be clicking now or at the end of the year, I’d say at the end of the year. To be able to kind of face all the things that might not be doing well right now, to correct them now, to be able to keep progressing throughout the year – whether it’s 27, 28, however many more starts I have, it’s important to just keep learning based off the last one and (continue to) get better. This team will do exactly what we did today, where if you keep it close and give them a chance to scratch a few across, we have a good chance of winning.”

4. Marcell Ozuna didn’t waste much time extending his MLB-best hitting streak to 16 games. And he did it in a loud way.

In the first inning, he launched a 432-foot solo homer to left-center field. The blast, which tied the score, left the bat at 112 mph.

It was smoked.

Ozuna’s eight homers and 23 RBIs lead all of baseball.

“He’s on fire,” Fried said. “There’s just no other way to say it. He’s taking great at-bats every single time he gets up there. You know he’s going to do some damage or at least hit the ball hard somewhere. He doesn’t look fooled. He’s really balanced, and he has a really good approach.”

5. After Thursday’s off-day, the Braves welcome the defending World Series champions, the Texas Rangers, to Truist Park. And a note on where to watch: Friday’s game is on Apple TV+, and Sunday night’s game is on ESPN.

The Braves will start Chris Sale, Charlie Morton and Darius Vines, in that order. Vines earned another start by holding the Astros to a run over 4-2/3 innings.

Stat to know

79 - In one of the observations, we talked about Acuña going 65 at-bats without a homer to begin the season. Dating to last season, he had gone 79 at-bats without a homer – the longest drought of his career.


“He’s got a slow heartbeat. I like seeing him in big situations. Even last year, he had a lot of big hits. He doesn’t get caught up in all the excitement and whatever. He stays calm and slows the game down and allows himself a chance.” – Braves manager Brian Snitker on Arcia

Up next

Friday’s series opener versus the Rangers begins at 7:20 p.m.