KEYS TO VICTORY
Forcing a Game 7 will come down to these critical keys for Astros
After falling behind 4-0 in Game 5 of the World Series, the Astros bounced back to defeat the Braves 9-5 and force a Game 6 back in Texas Tuesday night.
Houston still trails Atlanta 3-2 in the series, but a little home cooking can be just what this Astros team needs to stay alive.
A lot of things need to go right for Houston to obtain their second Commissioner's Trophy in five years including pitching, hitting and some hope.
Wake up certain bats
The Astros as a team have hit a combined .231 in the World Series. This needs to change if they want to force a Game 7 and certain bats need to improve. Houston is lacking in the home run department as well, with Jose Altuve being the lone player to hit both homers for this Astros team.
Certain hitters have yet to find their groove this series, such as Alex Bregman and ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez. Astros catcher Martin Maldonado has as many hits as both Bregman and Alvarez combined.
No disrespect to the Gold Glove caliber catcher, but he shouldn't be ahead of these two sluggers in any hitting category.
Manager Dusty Baker moved Bregman down in the lineup to the seven spot for Game 5 and it seemed to work as the third baseman got only his second hit of the series.
As for Alvarez, it can be assumed he will remain the cleanup hitter in this batting order, as his bat when right is too valuable to drop any further.
If the Astros can get these two guys going at the plate against Atlanta pitchers Max Fried Game 6 and potentially Ian Anderson for Game 7, Houston should have little to no issues staying in these contests and becoming a tough out for the Braves.
Pitching is key
It's not a stretch to say this pitching staff has been taxed.
Jose Urquidy has been the only pitcher to throw for more than five innings in a game.
Framber Valdez and Zack Greinke went as long as they could, but Houston needed the bullpen to finish out all three of their combined starts.
Luis Garcia is slated to take the mound Tuesday night on three days rest, and the question is which version of the rookie pitcher will we see.
The 24-year-old's postseason didn't get off to a great start when he was rocked by both the White Sox in the ALDS and his first appearance against Red Sox in the previous series.
Garcia did bounce back and had his best outing of the playoffs against Boston in Game 6 of the ALCS.
He pitched decently Game 3 of the World Series in which he allowed a single run in 3.2 innings of work.
If the Astros want to force a Game 7 Wednesday night, Garcia needs to take the mound with confidence and pitch a little deeper into the game.
Assuming he can last at least four innings on the mound, the bullpen could be in great shape to closeout the game if needed. And speaking of which.
The bullpen stays strong
One of the best attributes of this Astros team as of late has been their bullpen. With the exception of Cristian Javier, all of Houston's late inning arms have an ERA of 3 or lower.
That's in large part due to Baker's management of the pitchers he uses late in games.
The majority of runs surrendered by Astros' pitching has been from their starters and not relievers.
The bullpen has bent but not broken this postseason, thus giving Houston opportunities to come back late in some games.
If the Astros get some much-needed improvements from certain hitters, Luis Garcia and the bullpen pitch well, there is no reason not to expect Houston to force a Game 7.