ATLANTA (AP) – Martín Maldonado, a veteran catcher known for his defense, made a surprising contribution on the record to help the Houston Astros stay alive in the World Series.
Maldonado, Houston’s No. 8 hitter, ran in three races in the Astros’ 9-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5.
Describing Maldonado’s big game as unexpected would be an understatement. He had never ridden more than one race in any of his previous 41 career post-season games. He had only hit .157 in the off-season.
Maldonado had only one hit Sunday night, but played a key role in the Astros’ offensive resurgence. Houston had a stroke average of .206 for the World Series before breaking out with 12 hits. The Astros scored a total of two runs in the lost games 3 and 4.
Maldonado’s three RBIs led the Astros and helped push the series back to Houston. The Braves lead the series 3-2.
Maldonado, 35, hit just .172 in the regular season and is a career .212 hitter in 11 seasons with Milwaukee, Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City, Chicago Cubs and two stints with Houston.
Maldonado’s first contribution came in the second half. His ball to deep midfield ran into Kyle Tucker from third base. He pulled a walk with bases from AJ Minter to run in another race in the fifth.
Finally, Maldonado’s two-out single on the left field next to Drew Smyly in seventh Houston gave an 8-5 lead.
He is the first player in history to run in races with a hit, walk and sacrificial fly in a postseason match.
Astros are successful when Maldonado produces on the plate. In his four seasons with the team, Houston is 16-4 when he runs in two or more races.
Maldonado is expected to carry the full load by catcher after backup Jason Castro was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list before Game 4 on Saturday.
Castro was the replacement for Garrett Stubbs. Unlike a player who is replaced due to an injury, Castro is entitled to return if he is approved.
Castro was 0 for 2 in game 1 against Atlanta and 0 for 1 in game 2.
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Due to his defensive strength, Maldonado started even before the loss of Castro. Maldonado was named a Gold Glove finalist on Thursday. He led the American league by throwing 18 out of 47 runners trying to steal a base.