World Series: Houston’s silent offense puts team on the brink
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ATLANTA – Baseball’s most productive offense during the 2021 regular season has fallen dormant in the World Series. In the last days of October, a cold enveloped the Houston Astros bats and expressions of frustration and confusion clouded their faces.
The Astros have led the majors in runs scored and batting average in the regular season – and averaging six points per game in the American League Championship Series – but Houston is now on the brink of elimination after Atlanta. won Game 4 of the World Series, 3-2, on Saturday, taking a three-game-one lead.
Houston’s low offensive numbers in the last two games, both played in Atlanta, are almost disconcerting. The Astros have come off without a hitting in 10 batting appearances with runners in scoring over the past two games and have 17 runners blocked on base, 11 of which were in Game 4.
The roster’s top five hitters – Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa – combined to get 5 for 36 in those two games for a .139 batting average.
In Game 3, Houston failed to land a hit until the eighth inning and finished with just two singles in a 2-0 loss.
The Astros, who are playing their third World Series in the past five years – they’ve gone to the ALCS in the other two – have certainly been in dire straits before. Sometimes they made it work, like in 2017, and other times they couldn’t. They lost the ALCS’s first three games to the Tampa Bay Rays last year and fought to tie the series, before losing in Game 7.
In the 2019 World Series, they lost the first two games at home, won the next three in Washington, but lost the last two at home.
Manager Dusty Baker has said his players will build on all of this experience and the belief that just because the situation is dire doesn’t mean they will acquiesce.
“How small is your faith if you break down under any circumstances?” ” he said. “You must have faith that you can do it, and it will be done.”
That’s what it is for the Astros: Faith.
After watching his attack stumble and falter over the past two nights in a wet and cold Atlanta, it’s no wonder Baker thinks he may have to rely on faith. But he also hinted that he would intercede with more practical measures, tinkering with programming.
“Yeah, I thought about it,” he said. “I’ll let you know tomorrow when I do the composition.”
Bregman could slide down in order. He had a hit, a single in the defensive quarter leading to the ninth inning of Game 3. Bregman is now 1 of 14 in the World Series after hitting just 0.217 in the ALCS.
Correa hit a big homerun in Game 1 of the ALCS, but in the nine games since, he’s grown to 5 for 34 (0.147) with one hit, two RBIs and nine strikeouts. Yordan Alvarez, who was the ALCS MVP, is at 1 in 11.
In order for the Astros to bounce back and bring the series back to Houston, more of their best players have to start hitting better, or their pitchers have to shut out.
Altuve is the first of the team’s main stars to emerge from the team-wide crisis. He hit a homerun and a single in Game 4, his second homer of the World Series, and also had two more hits stripped thanks to some superb defensive play from the defensive players in Atlanta.
In the second set, Austin Riley dove to his right for Altuve’s practice line and caught him at the foul line. And with two strikeouts in the eighth and the Astros trailing by a run, Eddie Rosario reached out to catch Altuve’s run to left field.
Houston had runners on base several times in the first three innings, in part thanks to four walks, but only managed one run during that span.
If that happens again, their season could be over.
“Just focus on one game at a time,” Altuve said. “That’s it. That’s pretty much what we’re talking about. If we win tomorrow, try to win Game 6 and see what happens. But we have to focus on one game, and that game is tomorrow.
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