Unlikely hero, 2 home runs carry Atlanta to Game 4 win, brink of Series title

October 31, 2021
Unlikely hero, 2 home runs carry Atlanta to Game 4 win, brink of Series title

A guy who spent most of the season in the minors kept Atlanta in it. Then the offence finally came to life.

Just like that, Atlanta is one win from its first World Series title in 26 years.

Dansby Swanson and pinch-hitter Jorge Soler connected for back-to-back homers in the seventh inning Saturday night, propelling Atlanta to a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros and a commanding 3-1 Series lead.

Game 5 is Sunday night. Atlanta can wrap up the championship on their home field, just as they did two stadiums ago when they beat Cleveland in 1995.

That triumph at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium remains the franchise’s only World Series crown since moving to the Deep South in 1966.

This is the closest they’ve been to a second title since then.

A huge shoutout goes to a most unlikely hero.

Former No. 1 draft pick Kyle Wright, who has largely been a huge disappointment in repeated chances with Atlanta, turned in 4 2/3 gritty innings out of the bullpen after surprise starter Dylan Lee retired only one hitter.

Wright was hardly overpowering, giving up five hits — including a homer by Jose Altuve in the fourth that staked the Astros to a 2-0 lead — and three walks. But he continually pitched out of trouble, giving Atlanta a semblance of hope until the offence woke up.

That finally occurred in the sixth when Eddie Rosario became the first Atlanta hitter to get past first base with a one-out double off Brooks Raley.

Rosario wound up scoring on another clutch postseason hit by Austin Riley, who lined a two-out single to left against Phil Maton.

Atlanta left the bases loaded, but they weren’t done. Just like that, they stunningly engineered the first lead change of the entire Series.

Facing Cristian Javier, Swanson went the opposite way for a homer that tied the game at 2, the ball hit so hard that it ricocheted off the tabled section in the right-field stands and rolled all the way back to the infield.

The celebration had barely simmered down when Soler stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter. On a 2-1 pitch from Javier, he got hold of a hanging slider and drove it into the Astros’ bullpen in left, Yordan Alvarez hanging helplessly over the fence as the ball sailed over his head.

Luke Jackson worked a scoreless eighth, getting a great catch from Rosario slamming into the left-field wall that Soler homered over, and Will Smith worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save in six chances this postseason.

The Astros could only kick themselves for squandering countless chances, going hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 on base overall.

Houston got just what it wanted from 38-year-old starter Zack Greinke, who threw four scoreless innings.

Greinke had last pitched in the World Series in 2019, when he was an 18-game winner acquired by the Astros in a trade-deadline deal.

Two years later, Greinke is no longer one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers. But he gave the Astros just what they needed in the bullpen era — four solid innings to leave with a 2-0 lead.

Atlanta’s pitching was in a bit of disarray after Game 1 starter Charlie Morton was lost for the rest of the Series with a broken leg.

On Sunday, Atlanta can wrap up the championship on their home field, just as they did two stadiums ago when they beat Cleveland in 1995. (Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Atlanta decided to go with a parade of relievers, starting with a guy who was released by Miami before the season and spent most of the year in Triple-A.

Lee wasn’t even told he would be starting until he got to the ballpark Saturday afternoon, in hopes that he wouldn’t have too much time to get nervous.

But he looked overwhelmed by the moment, retiring only one hitter before he was lifted with the bases loaded, having walked two and thrown just five of 15 pitches for strikes.

It was the shortest Series start since 2003, when David Wells lasted only one inning for the Yankees in Game 5 before leaving with back spasms.

Wright escaped the jam with only one run scoring on a groundout and made only one major mistake before his night was done.

Altuve went deep with one out in the fourth, launching a 434-foot drive over the centre-field wall. It was his 23rd homer in 77 postseason games, which pushed him to second place all alone on the career list behind Manny Ramirez with 29.

Altuve had been tied with longtime New York Yankees star Bernie Williams.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Bring It In panel breaks down World Series matchup:

Dusty Baker leads Astros back to World Series | Bring It In

The Bring It In panel breaks down the World Series matchup between Houston and Atlanta, along with the historic trailblazing career of Astros Manager Dusty Baker. 7:30

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