The Braves return home, where they’ve been unbeatable this October

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after grounding out to end the top of the seventh inning as Houston Astros fans cheer in game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday October 27, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com
Caption
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after grounding out to end the top of the seventh inning as Houston Astros fans cheer in game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday October 27, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

HOUSTON — The history of the Braves in the postseason is heavy on losing at home. For a long time the Braves regularly watched opponents celebrate clinching playoff series on their field. Most of that happened in their old homes, though, and the Braves have been unbeatable in the newer place this October.

Keep that in mind after the Braves lost Game 2 of the World Series at Houston on Wednesday. The situation appears bleak for their pitching. Astros hitters erupted during the 7-2 victory. But the Braves are going home to Truist Park, where they are 5-0 this postseason.

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“You want to win two, but if you can split and get out of here and go home where we’ve been really good, that’s a very positive (thing),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

The next three games of the Series are at Truist, starting with Game 3 on Friday. The Braves can win the championship by sweeping. Win two of three, and they’ll come back to Houston with the series lead.

It won’t be easy. It shouldn’t be easy. This is the World Series. But haven’t the Braves been doing hard things well for a long time now?

Making it this far without Ronald Acuna. Ending their losing streak at Dodger Stadium. Finally finishing off the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Beating the Astros in Game 1 of the Series despite right-hander Charlie Morton leaving the game in the third inning with a fractured right leg.

Houston’s victory ended its Series losing streak at Minute Maid Park at five games. Now the Astros go to Truist Park. The Brewers and Dodgers faced loud and rowdy atmospheres for postseason games there. The Astros are sure to see the same for the first Series games in Atlanta since 1999.

“Electric,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said of his expectation. “A lot of fun. Can’t wait. Can’t wait to get back home.”

The change in venue might give the Braves a needed boost after Morton’s injury bummed them out. The Braves are down to two healthy starters and one of them, Max Fried, got roughed up in Game 2. A night after the Braves jumped Houston’s starting pitcher early, the Astros responded in kind.

Fried gave up five runs (four earned) in the first two innings. He had some bad luck, but said: “At the end of the day, they put up four runs in that (first) inning.”

That’s two consecutive ineffective outings for Fried, who entered the postseason as the staff’s best starter. Now you wonder how much the Braves will get from Fried when he starts Game 6 of the best-of-seven Series if it comes back to Houston.

Coming back on short rest for Game 5 seems out of the question after Fried threw 86 total pitches in Game 2. He said he’d be up for it, depending on how he feels. Snitker might have to consider it depending on how the next three games go.

Right-hander Ian Anderson is set to start Game 3 on Friday. All three of his postseason outings have been at Truist Park. In Game 6 against the Dodgers, Anderson gave the Braves four innings with one run allowed. They need more than that in his next start.

Snitker will have to piece together pitching for Games 4 and 5. His options are limited, but at least he’ll get to figure it out at home. The Braves won two games there against the Brewers and three against the Dodgers. The Braves clinched both series at their place.

Caption
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve celebrates his solo home run during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday October 27, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve celebrates his solo home run during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday October 27, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com
Caption
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve celebrates his solo home run during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday October 27, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

The current Braves are changing the pattern of suffering sour losses at home in the postseason. It didn’t start off that way. The Dodgers clinched their 2018 Division Series at Truist Park. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning of the 2019 NLDS to turn the place into a depressing scene before the game really got started.

The Braves didn’t get to play at Truist Park during the 2020 playoffs because of the pandemic. The Dodgers beat them in the NLCS at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers. Beating the Dodgers three times at Truist this postseason suggests the 2020 Braves would have benefited from home games.

The last great Braves era included one World Series win, in 1995. That’s also the one postseason they dominated at home during those runs: one loss in eight games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Rockies won Game 3 of the NLDS in 10 innings, then the Braves never lost at home again while clinching all three series in Atlanta.

That was a change from 1992. That year, the Blue Jays beat the Braves twice at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in the World Series, including the Game 6 clincher. The Braves beat Cleveland in all three home games of the 1995 Series. They won Games 6 and 7 of the 1996 NLCS at home against the Cardinals.

That wasn’t the end of bad postseason scenes for the Braves at home. The opposite happened. The Yankees won three times in Atlanta as part of their six-game Series victory in 1996. That pattern would repeat for the Braves over the next 23 years.

Astros 7, Braves 2 (box score)

The Marlins clinched the 1997 NLCS in Atlanta. The Padres did the same thing in the 1998 NLCS. The Yankees won twice at Turner Field while sweeping the Braves in the 1999 Series. Then came a streak of six consecutive home loses for the Braves in clinching games of the NLDS round.

The opponents: Cardinals, Astros, Giants, Cubs, Astros again and Astros yet another time. The Braves missed the playoffs for the next five years. When they returned to the postseason, the Giants clinched the 2010 NLDS at Turner Field. The Cardinals beat the Braves there in the 2012 wild-card game after umpire Hal Holbrook’s bad call undermined their comeback attempt.

This October the Braves have celebrated only victories at their ballpark. The state of their pitching is a big problem as the Series returns to Truist Park. Going home is part of the solution.

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