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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome