HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – In their third World Series appearance in the last five seasons, the Houston Astros had high hopes of bringing home their second title.
An inconsistent offense throughout the series, reappeared in Game 6 on Tuesday night, November 2 in Houston, when the Astros were shut out.
Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman and the Braves hammered the Astros 7-0 and won their first World Series since 1995.
Max Fried threw six shutout innings in the series’ characteristic pitching performance. Soler, a July acquisition that tested positive for COVID-19 in the playoffs, backed him up early with a monster three-run shot for his third homer against the Astros.
Freeman hit an RBI double and then marked the tumult with a solo homerun in the seventh that made it 7-0.
At the time, it was a total team effort. Sick star Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta’s future dynamo, was on his way out of the cemetery to attend the celebration of Freeman, the franchise’s longtime face.
A pure reflection in the summer heat among the Giants, White Sox and Dodgers country, but magnificent in the Fall Classic.
Soler beat his heart twice before beginning his homerun trot after beating rookie Luis Garcia in the third inning, sending the ball completely out of Minute Maid Park. Dansby Swanson also homerated and at the final nothing could stop them.
Not a broken leg was incurred by starter Charlie Morton in the World Series opener. Not a big burst of lead in Game 5.
The shock of 66-year-old manager Brian Snitker, an organization man for four decades, won the underdog Braves franchise’s fourth title.
Consider it a tribute to the greatest Braves player of them all, Mr. Hank Aaron. The Hall of Fame slugger died on January 22 at the age of 86, still rooting in his old team, and his legacy was stamped throughout this series.
For 72-year-old Houston manager Dusty Baker is a disappointment. But for many fans who are still messing with the Astros in the wake of their 2017 scandal of stealing signs, there is some satisfaction.
Great honor to the Braves also goes to general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Undaunted by Acuna’s knee injury, he completed a barrage of July trades that brought the Fab Four to the field – NL Championship Series MVP Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson and Soler.
But even in the Analytics era, ruled by a GM who is fully familiar with new-age ways, the path these Braves went would not stick together on any computer. Especially with how things looked in the mid-season.
“At that point, we were looking,” said third baseman Austin Riley before game 6. “I think there is no doubt about that.”
Minus Acuña, Atlanta was not over 0.500 for a single day before the first week of August. The Braves finished 88-73 for the 12th best record in majors and fewest wins among playoff teams; their overall victory was the lowest for a World Series champion since St. Louis ’83 in 2006.
Plus the painful history of the sport in Atlanta, a city where no team had won a title in the four major pro sports beyond 1995.
The Braves were unable to convert a three-game-to-one advantage over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series last year. The Hawks fell short in the NBA Finals last season. And then there was the big one, the Falcons, who blew a 28-3 lead for the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
But these Braves, not this time.
The Braves were favored in spring training to win their fourth consecutive title in the NL East, and the Braves lost Acuña to a torn knee in July. Earlier, 2020 Triple Crown challenger Marcell Ozuna was injured and later put on leave while Major League Baseball investigated him under his policy of domestic violence. The expected ace Mike Soroka never came back from an Achilles injury.
When they went into the playoffs, their bullpen was an insane patchwork.
They had a guy who made his big league debut in October, a leftist who pitched in 2019 for the Texas AirHogs in a now defunct independent league, and a right-winger who stacked boxes at a device store ten years ago. Throw in a rookie who was off the list a week ago when he watched Match 1 at a hotel in the suburbs of Atlanta.
Admittedly, there were plenty of fans around the country who messed hard against Jose Altuve and the Houston crew. Many continue to claim them as “Cheatin ‘Astros” for an illegal scheme of sign theft on the way to their 2017 title, and those feelings can last forever.
There were certainly many who cheered on Baker. A World Series winner as a player and a highly respected figure on and off the field, he was unable to check the last field on his resume as a championship driver.
The Braves’ crowns have been scattered over more than a century.
The 1995 Atlanta champs featured five future Hall of Famers rookie Chipper Jones, aces Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz and manager Bobby Cox. These rings were the only hardware that resulted from 14 equal division titles.
1957 The Milwaukee Braves were led by Aaron in his only NL MVP season. His 44 were painted in large numbers on the outfield grass at Truist Park, and Baker and Snitker often mentioned how much he had meant to them.
There were also Boston Braves from 1914, called “Miracle Braves” at the time. In last place on July 4, they rose to win the pennant, then disrupt a highly favored team – the Philadelphia As – to get their nickname.
Does that sound familiar?
The Braves’ previous title came at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, their first home after moving from Milwaukee to Deep South in 1966. Then there was Turner Field before the team moved up from downtown and decided to spread into the suburbs.
Truist Park was full, and the outside spaces were crammed over the weekend, and vibrant crowds filled Minute Maid Park.
A change from October last year. Only limited capacity was allowed for the World Series when the Dodgers beat Tampa Bay at a neutral stadium in Arlington, Texas – which followed a total shutout for fans during a regular season shortened due to coronavirus.
Now the whole baseball is waiting to see if the spring training is on deck in a little over three months. A quarrel between owners and players soon threatens to shut down the sport.
Meanwhile, the sport may enjoy a year in which things slowly began to return to normal.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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