The Atlanta Braves are just one victory away from clinching a first World Series in 26 years tonight but must overcome the rejuvenated Houston Astros and home advantage as the matchup shifts to Minute Maid Park.
Seeking their first championship since 1995, the Braves looked set to have it wrapped in front of their home fans in Game 5 on Sunday after an explosive, Adam Duvall-inspired first inning, but a resurgent Astros offense saw Dusty Baker’s team roar back to win 9-5 and extend the series.
Marwin Gonzalez had a go-ahead, two-run single in the fifth inning and Martin Maldonado drove in three runs as the Astros became just the fourth team to rally from a four-run deficit and win in a World Series elimination game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Should the Astros continue their revival with two more victories – with a potential Game 7 on Wednesday – they would become the first team since the 2016 Chicago Cubs to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win the Fall Classic.
Such a turnaround would translate to a devastating collapse from the Braves, but manager Brian Snitker has not seen any signs that his players are cracking under the pressure.
“They’re having fun playing this thing,” Snitker said.
“They’re in the World Series. My God, like I told them, you’re never guaranteed this, so enjoy it.
“There’s no pressure. Like I say, it’s pressure in the NLCS when you’re trying to get here. We all want to finish this off, but there’s no pressure.
“We’re one of two teams remaining in our sport, and there’s no – I don’t know that these guys have – I’ve sensed any kind of pressure out of these guys internally.
“The only time I hear about that is in this room. In that room out there, I never hear it.”
‘We still have work to do’
Baker – still searching for an elusive championship despite having taken all five teams he has coached to the playoffs – once again found himself staring down the barrel of heartbreak in Game 5, but his decision to revamp the batting order proved an inspired decision and kept his dream alive.
Shortstop Carlos Correa, bumped up to third in the batting order, came through with three hits and a pair of RBIs, while first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who moved up to fifth after hitting seventh in Game 4, had three hits of his own and scored two runs.
Now into his 24th season as a manager, a comeback victory in the series would mark a fairytale ending to the veteran’s pursuit of the title, but Baker is taking things one step at a time.
“The guys are happy, but they weren’t really overjoyed,” Baker said of the team following the Game 5 win.
“They know that we still have work to do, and like when we – you want to go up there and win three.
“When it didn’t happen in Game 1 and Game 2, you’re behind the eight ball, then you change your rally cry to we just want to get back to the H-town.
“We want to come back home. Now, our whole thing is win game one, which is Game 6, and then put us in a position to win Game 7.”
The action between the Astros and Braves kicks off at 8:09 p.m. ET in Houston.