Duvall’s grand slam a grand start
On the first pitch he saw in the game, Adam Duvall hit a grand slam to right field with two outs in the first inning to give the Braves the abrupt 4-0 lead. The 377-foot blast came on a sinker from Astros starter Framber Valdez. Preceding the slam, the Braves had loaded the bases on a leadoff single by Jorge Soler (who was replaced on the bases by Ozzie Albies via a fielder’s-choice grounder) and, with two outs, a single by Austin Riley and a walk to Eddie Rosario. Duvall became just the second player in Braves history to hit a World Series grand slam, joining Lonnie Smith (Game 5, 1992).
A short-lived lead
The Braves’ four-run lead didn’t last long. The Astros cut it in half with two runs off Braves starter Tucker Davidson in the second inning, the first scoring on an Alex Bregman double and the second on a Martin Maldonado sacrifice fly. Then the Astros reset the game 4-4 with two unearned runs in the third inning, which began with an error by Dansby Swanson. Four runs (two earned) were charged to Davidson, including two inherited runners who scored after reliever Jesse Chavez entered the game with no outs in the third.
Freeman’s long, loud blast
A long, loud home run by Freddie Freeman restored a Braves lead, 5-4, in the bottom of the third. His first World Series homer was a 460-foot, 112-mph-off-the-bat blast to right-center off a Valdez sinker. It was Freeman’s longest homer of the season. But the Braves didn’t score again after that as five Houston relievers pitched 6-1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits.
Astros’ three-run rally against Minter
The Astros erupted for three runs with two outs in the fifth inning against Minter, who has had an exceptional postseason, to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 7-5 lead. The tying run scored when Minter walked Malonado (4-for-41 this postseason) on five pitches after loading the bases with an intentional walk to Bregman. Then pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez drove home two runs by dropping a single into left-center on the first pitch he saw from Minter, giving the Astros their first lead of the game. Chris Martin replaced Minter, got the final out of the fifth and pitched a scoreless sixth.
Insurance runs against Smyly
With the Braves trailing 7-5 entering the seventh inning, they brought little-used-of-late Drew Smyly into the game, rather than one of the high-leverage relievers they would have used if not for Houston’s fifth-inning uprising. The Astros tacked on two insurance runs against Smyly, one apiece in the seventh and eighth innings. Smyly allowed five hits and two runs in three innings of work, striking out five.
Another improbable starter for Braves
The game would have been Charlie Morton’s turn to start. But in place of Morton, who suffered a broken leg in World Series Game 1 last week, the Braves turned to Davidson, a rookie who pitched in a big-league game for the first time since June 15. Davidson started four games for the Braves in May and June – three good, one not – before being sidelined with a left forearm strain. He didn’t pitch in a game again until Oct. 3, when he worked three innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on a rehabilitation assignment. He watched the first game of the World Series at a Gwinnett County hotel and was added to the roster after Morton’s injury. In two-plus innings Sunday, he allowed four runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks.
-- The loss was the Braves’ first in eight games at Truist Park this postseason.
-- Continuing the trend of a series in which starting pitchers have had limited impact, both teams’ Game 5 starters were gone by end of the third inning.
-- Kendall Graveman completed the Houston bullpen’s 6-1/3 scoreless innings by working the final two frames.
-- The Braves became the first team in MLB history to start three different rookie pitchers in a single World Series. Davidson followed Game 3 starter Ian Anderson (technically still a rookie this season) and Game 4 starter Dylan Lee (who started in an “opener” role).
-- Duvall’s grand slam underscored yet again the impact of the four outfielders the Braves acquired in July. Those four outfielders -- Duvall, Soler, Rosario and Joc Pederson -- have accounted for 11 of the Braves’ 20 postseason homers and 33 of their 57 postseason RBIs.
-- Alas, the Astros outscored the Braves 9-1 after Duvall’s slam.
-- The Astros used pitcher Zack Greinke as a pinch-hitter. He singled in the fourth inning.
-- Maldonado, Houston’s light-hitting catcher, had three RBIs: one on a sacrifice fly, one on a bases-loaded walk and one on a single.