HOUSTON — It wasn’t a must win, but it was damn close. The Astros, still confident in a postseason leg that has been part of their regular routine for six-plus years, didn’t want to go to Philadelphia down 2-0 in the World Series.
With good reason, three players largely responsible for so many triumphs over the last few months of October ensured that things evened out before the end of the home version of the first part of the series.
Jose Altuve made some noise at the top of the lineup. Yordan Alvarez has re-emerged as a force in the middle. And Alex Bregman, who seems to be up to the more stressful situation, provided a home run that seemed to put the game out of reach – for real this time.
“I think this team takes great pride in coming out and competing every day and coming in with a clear head and being able to flush out one bad game and move on,” Bregman said. “I think we did a good job today.”
Glimpses of the Astros from past playoffs appeared almost from the first pitch. Houston took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks in part to back-to-back doubles from the first three batters in the order.
“I was shooting for a fourth, actually,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Altuve leading a game on an extra hit isn’t a new concept, but given how this playoffs went before this board appearance – he had four hits on 37 at-bats coming into the game 2 – it set a nostalgic tone for an Astros roster that had mostly persevered this playoff without him.
“I think the boys made it a lot easier because we won,” Altuve said in a postgame interview with FOX. “We didn’t win yesterday, but we were winning the last two series, so I was just optimistic about my at-bats that I was going to get a hit one day.”
Jeremy Peña and Alvarez repeated what Altuve started, recording their own braces against Phillies starter Zack Wheeler on his second and fourth pitches of the night. Those hits, coupled with a shaky Phillies defensive performance, capped a three-run frame that could be seen as a tone for the rest of the game.
“We all know [Wheeler’s] a very good pitcher,” Alvarez said. “But we also know his plan is to attack the batters early in the count. That’s why we became aggressive and attacked him. Luckily we were able to do that. »
Altuve recorded a second hit in the fifth, and he added another in the seventh by hitting a 96 mph fastball from Connor Brogdon and putting it into right field. Altuve now has nine career three-hitter games in the playoffs, tied for third in playoff history behind Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, who each have 12.
Bregman’s homer in the fifth inning on a 92.3 mph slider from Wheeler traveled 405 feet to left center, dropped his bat at 104.3 mph and gave the Astros a 5-0 lead. At 28, Bregman already has two more playoff homers than any third baseman in history. His two-point shot was his eighth, passing Gil McDougald and Scott Brosius.
Bregman praised Alvarez for setting up the streak. Alvarez, third as the Astros’ designated hitter, dug into a heavily offset Phillies infield (third baseman Alec Bohm lined the ground at the edge of the dirt just yards from first base) and beat a double game by a Hair.
“I think the credit goes to Yordan, for pushing the line and keeping this round alive, to be honest,” Bregman said. “It was a bang-bang play at the start. I feel like this team plays hard and never lets go of a pitch. Being able to add insurance was huge.
While it’s not a must win, the Astros didn’t underestimate the importance of grabbing this one.
“It was almost a mathematical necessity, actually, because it’s hard to lose the first two games at home,” Baker said. “It’s good for the city, good for our fans, that they went home happy after last night… people were a little sick from last night. So you have to have a positive attitude throughout the city, and that vibe radiates here. It was great to win that first game.
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