Houston is back in it

Astros tie up World Series with Game 2 domination of Braves

Houston's offense showed up and carried the Astros to a win in World Series Game 2 on Wednesday. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

You can't change the past, and in sports, you can't change a game's outcome once it's in the books. The Astros were handed a lopsided loss to start the 2021 World Series, with the Braves coming into Houston and stealing Game 1 with early scoring. Still, according to Jake Odorizzi, there was no angst after the game in Houston's clubhouse:

"After the game last night, you would have thought it was a May 2nd loss. It wasn't like it was a World Series loss. That's why I appreciate this team and the leadership on this team because they definitely know how to handle adverse moments."

A team's mentality after a loss is one thing; how they perform their next game out is another. In Game 2, the Astros displayed that they are better than what they showed the night prior, building a lead that their pitching held to even the series.

Final Score: Astros 7, Braves 2

World Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy

Losing Pitcher: Max Fried

Urquidy gives Houston five strong innings while they build a lead

With a disappointing outing by Framber Valdez in Game 1, Houston hoped to turn the tide with a strong start by Jose Urquidy. He faced some traffic in the first, with the Braves knocking back-to-back two-out singles, but Urquidy would strand them by striking out the side with a strikeout to end the half-inning. That provided his offense a chance to strike first and grab the momentum, and Jose Altuve would be the man for the job.

Altuve started Houston's night at the plate with a double, then two productive outs behind him brought him home, with Alex Bregman getting the RBI on a sac fly to make it a 1-0 game. Atlanta quickly responded, though, with Urquidy watching a fastball find its way to the Crawford Boxes on a solo homer by Travis d'Arnaud to tie things up in the top of the second.

Urquidy finished that inning and stranded another runner, and then the Astros wasted no time moving things back in their favor. They tagged Max Fried for four runs in the bottom of the second, getting four-straight singles with one out, one an RBI by Jose Siri who legged one out in the infield, then another on a single by Martin Maldonado with a second run scoring on an error during the play. Michael Brantley capped off the big inning with an RBI single of his own, this one with two outs to extend the lead to four runs at 5-1.

Urquidy settled in with the new lead, retiring eight in a row before Atlanta would break that streak up with a leadoff single in the top of the fifth. The Braves would bring that runner home later in the inning on an RBI single by Freddie Freeman, but Houston's starter would finish the frame with the lead still three runs. That would be it for Urquidy as Dusty Baker would move to his bullpen in the top of the sixth. Urquidy's final line left him in line for the win: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 74 P.

Astros pad their lead

First out of the bullpen for Houston was Cristian Javier in the top of the sixth. He started his night with a strikeout, then erased a one-out double to leave another Atlanta runner in scoring position. More defensive miscues by the Braves afforded the Astros another run in the bottom of the sixth, with a potential double-play ball mishandled with runners on the corners, leaving the inning going and another on the board for Houston, making it 6-2

Javier returned to the mound in the seventh, getting one out and issuing a walk before Phil Maton would take over to get the final two outs of the inning. Altuve put his mark on Game 2 again in the bottom of the inning, launching a leadoff solo homer on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, pushing the lead to five runs.

Astros take Game 2 to even up the World Series

With the heart of Atlanta's order due up in the top of the eighth, the Astros opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly to face the challenge. He started the frame with a leadoff walk, then retired the next three in a row to keep it a five-run lead. With the score still 7-2 going to the top of the ninth, Kendall Graveman entered to finish things off, and he would with a scoreless inning. The victory for Houston sets the World Series even at 1-1, making it a best-of-five in the remaining games.

Up Next: The Fall Classic shifts to Atlanta for the next three games, with both teams having a day off on Thursday before things pick back up with Game 3 on Friday at 7:09 PM Central. In that one, the expected pitching matchup is Ian Anderson, 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts this postseason, for the Braves and Luis Garcia, 1-1 with a 9.64 ERA in his three starts, for the Astros.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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