Astros force the series back to Houston

Astros stave off elimination with World Series Game 5 win over Braves

After some rough outings in the early games of the 2021 World Series, Houston's offense came alive in Game 5 to stave off elimination. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When your back is against the wall, you have no other option than to fight. The Astros had their backs pressed even tighter against the proverbial wall to start Game 5, but that wasn't the end of their story. After going down 4-0 on a first-inning grand slam by the Braves, the Astros rallied back to take Game 5.

Final Score: Astros 9, Braves 5

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 3-2

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy

Losing Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Valdez struggles and gives up a slam, but Houston claws back

When in a game facing elimination, the best thing you can do is get out to a hot start. That did not happen for the Astros, when in fact, the exact opposite occurred as the Braves would appear to put things out of reach in the very first inning. After Houston wasted a one-out walk in the top of the first, Atlanta loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in the bottom half.

That brought Adam Duvall to the plate against Framber Valdez, and he delivered a momentous grand slam to put the Astros in a 4-0 hole. Houston did not hang their heads and give up, though, as, in the very next half-inning, they would cut the lead in half. After getting two on base, Alex Bregman, the now seven-hole hitter after being moved down the lineup, would deliver Houston's first run of the night with an RBI double. Martin Maldonado followed that with a sac fly, making it a 4-2 game.

Valdez was able to retire Atlanta 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second, and then in the top of the third, an RBI double by Carlos Correa cut the lead to one run before a game-tying RBI groundout by Yuli Gurriel made it a brand new ballgame at 4-4. Valdez's last inning came in the third, as a leadoff homer by Freddie Freeman would put the Braves back on top 5-4. Houston's starter would face three more batters, getting two outs before a walk to end his night, as Yimi Garcia would come in to finish the frame.

Houston takes the lead

Houston did not waste time showing they were going all-in for Game 5, as in the bottom of the fourth, they brought in Jose Urquidy, who was able to erase a leadoff single for a scoreless inning. The Astros got a much-needed big top of the fifth, loading the bases on two singles and an intentional walk before Martin Maldonado would tie the game with an RBI walk. The Astros then pinch-hit Marwin Gonzalez in the pitcher's spot in the lineup, and in shades of the 2017 World Series, he delivered a go-ahead two-RBI single to make it a 7-5 Houston lead.

Phil Maton took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth, and despite a two-out double, he was able to maintain the new two-run lead. He returned in the bottom of the sixth and was again able to strand a runner after giving up a one-out single but retiring the next two batters. Houston padded their lead in the top of the seventh, getting a one-out double by Kyle Tucker, who then scored on an RBI single by Maldonado, his third run driven in on the night.

Astros avoid elimination and force the series back to Houston

Ryne Stanek had the bottom of the seventh, and he had a great inning, retiring the top of Atlanta's order 1-2-3 on twelve pitches. Jose Altuve led off the top of the eighth with a single, then stole second to get in position for an RBI single by Correa to make it a four-run game at 9-5. Kendall Graveman was next out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth, and he was able to strand a leadoff single by Austin Riley to send the game to the ninth.

After a scoreless top-half, Graveman kept going on the mound in the bottom of the ninth and finished off the win for Houston with a scoreless inning. The Astros completed their mission for Game 5, getting the victory to move the series back to Houston where they, with another win in Game 6, can force a winner-take-all Game 7 to erase the 3-1 deficit.

Up Next: Game 6 of the 2021 World Series will be on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park and will have a 7:09 PM Central scheduled time of the first pitch, but as far as starters go, both teams will have to figure that out between now and then.

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There's nothing left to do, but wait. Composite image by Jack Brame.

For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, Major League Baseball has entered into a lockout in which team officials and players cannot communicate with each other until both sides are “satisfied” and have come to an agreement on labor negotiations.

Before December 1st, MLB free agents were being signed left and right with teams like the Rangers spending over half a billion dollars on players that include Kole Calhoun, Jon Grey, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

Other teams that opened their wallets this offseason were the Mariners, Mets and Tigers.

Baseball free agency came to a screeching halt once the December 1st MLB CBA ended. As of right now, players can't sign with any team until the lockout has concluded.

Now that Major League Baseball has entered this work stoppage, the question on everyone’s mind is what does this mean for the sport going forward?

The short answer is no one knows. This process will take some time and most owners have a wait and see approach in regard to this stoppage. Labor negations can be a long, meticulous process that could drag out for weeks, if not months.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seemed optimistic that a deal should get done between both the owners and the MLB Player’s Association sometime before the 2022 regular season starts.

"We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season," Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. "We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the players' association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive."

That being said, it may be some time before any deal is made between either side, thus leaving certain free agents in a temporary limbo like Carlos Correa.

The 27-year-old shortstop looked to be the most coveted player available this offseason and would earn a major payday. Just like his fellow shortstops, Correa was looking to earn a deal similar to that of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Francisco Lindor. All of whom signed deals or extension’s of at least 10-year $300 million dollars or higher.

The aforementioned Seager signed a 10-year deal worth $325 million with the Texas Rangers two days before the current CBA ended. Correa was looking to earn a deal similar to this, and the Rangers were one of the team’s that looked to obtain the All-Star shortstop.

Another club that had been linked to Correa was the Tigers, but they just signed free agent short stop Javier Baez to a six-year $140 million contract.

With both Texas and Detroit out of the Correa sweepstakes presumably, where would the 27-year-old land?

We won’t know for some time due to the ongoing lockout negotiations, but as soon as there’s an agreement, Correa will sign somewhere and get his money.

According to Bleacher Report, the Gold Glove winning shortstop has drawn interest from the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers.

All of these clubs are big market teams who are not afraid to spend large sums of money in free agency.

As much as Astros fans would hate to see their beloved shortstop don Yankee pinstripes or wear Dodgers Blue, it seems to be more of a reality Correa won’t be wearing an Astros uniform next season.

Is it possible for Houston to keep Carlos Correa?

Sure, if James Click and the Astros’ front office do something they have never done before and give him an extension of more than $300 million.

The largest contract Houston has ever given out was a 5-year $151 million extension to Jose Altuve.

If they wish to keep Correa, the Astros would have to give him at least a deal similar to what Seager just received in Texas, therefore doubling their largest contract ever given out.

It is not out of the realm of possibilities to believe Houston could accomplish this feat, but it seems unlikely.

A lockout might prolong Correa’s free agency, but once clubs are able to sign again, the All-Star shortstop could sign quicker than we think.

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