World Series notebook: Maldonado gives Astros surprise offensive boost

Astros

Houston Astros’ Martin Maldonado celebrates after his RBI-single during the seventh inning in Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ATLANTA (AP) — Martín Maldonado is known for his defense but he provided a surprise contribution at the plate to help the Houston Astros stay alive in the World Series.

Maldonado drove in three runs in the Astros’ 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5. Maldonado had never driven in more than one run in any of his previous 41 career postseason games.

Maldonado had only one hit in Game 5 but played a key role in the Astros’ offensive resurgence.

Minter regrets not attacking Maldonado in strike zone

If A.J. Minter could do it all over, he would’ve powered the ball to the catcher’s mitt instead of trying to aim it with Martín Maldonado at the plate and the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

Minter could tell the light-hitting Houston catcher was trying to work a walk.

“That’s obviously the one thing I would take back,” Minter said. “And then a shot to, a flare shot, to score two runs, just like that.”

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter wipes his face after giving up a 2-RBI double to Houston Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez during the fifth inning in Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Minter, the Braves’ stingy relief pitcher, coughed up three runs and blew a one-run lead in the Astros’ 9-5 victory over Atlanta in Game 5 early Monday. That “flare” was a bloop single by Marwin Gonzalez, the next batter, that plated two runs and broke a 5-all tie.

“I’m not worried about it,” Minter said. “I’ve been pitching good and feeling good, and I’m still feeling good. I’ll be ready to go Game 6.”

Minter began Sunday 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two World Series games. He was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 13 relief appearances and one start in his postseason career.

“Minter is a tough man,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s had our number pretty good this series. I’m just glad that Maldy got the walk and glad that Marwin, that was a big hit. That was a real big hit. You can’t let (Minter) get too far ahead of you because this guy has a lot of weapons to work with.”

Minter took the loss after allowing three runs and three hits with two walks and two strikeouts in one inning.

Braves still confident

Braves center fielder Adam Duvall, who hit a first-inning grand slam to put Atlanta up early, isn’t concerned about his team’s collective confidence.

The Braves haven’t suffered consecutive losses in 24 games, a span that dates to Sept. 23-24 at Arizona and San Diego.

“We’ve learned to turn the page, and we’ve learned to celebrate the win or go over the loss and figure out what we need to do better and then turn the page and come back,” Duvall said. “It’s a quick turnaround, and we play a lot of games. You’ve got to be short-minded and be able to forget when you need to forget. Just turn the page and play your best ball tomorrow.”

‘Mad Dog’ Maddux gets in the mood

Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Sunday night’s Game 5 of the World Series.

Maddux, wearing his Braves No. 31 jersey, tipped his cap in response to an ovation from fans as he walked onto the field. Fittingly, he threw the pitch to Eddie Perez, who was often his designated catcher.

After that, he had a little fun on Twitter.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

” First #WorldSeries pitch since ’99…Little bit less pressure this time,” Maddux wrote before tweeting directly to Perez that he appreciated him reaching out to catch the high first pitch. ” @Eperez1212 thanks for catching it a lot of my catchers might have missed that. “

Perez, also a former Braves coach, now is a special adviser for player development for the team.

Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards for the Chicago Cubs and the Braves, including in 1995 when he posted a remarkable 19-2 record with a 1.63 ERA for Atlanta’s 1995 World Series champion team.

It was a rare Atlanta appearance for “Mad Dog” Maddux. The 55-year-old Maddux is the pitching coach for UNLV.

Bregman moves down

Houston manager Dusty Baker moved third baseman Alex Bregman down in his batting order.

Entering Game 5, Bregman had only one hit in 14 World Series at-bats (.071) with no homers and one RBI. He was hitting seventh. He was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in Saturday’s night’s 3-2 loss while hitting third in Game 4. He went 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI in Game 5.

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman hits a RBI-double during the second inning in Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Baker said he hoped to move Bregman back up in a lineup with the designated hitter returning to Houston for Game 6.

Braves no longer perfect at home

The Braves entered Game 5 trying to extend one of their most impressive home postseason performances in team history.

Atlanta was 7-0 at home in the postseason, including wins in Games 3 and 4. It marked their second-longest home winning streak in the postseason, and the longest in one postseason. They won eight consecutive home postseason games from Oct. 7, 1995, to Oct. 9, 1996.

Overall, the Braves had won 12 of their last 13 home games before Game 5.

The Astros are 5-2 at home this postseason.

Alvarez still sore

Left fielder Yordan Alvarez, who crashed into the wall trying to catch Jorge Soler’s go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of Game 4, was sore but able to start. The AL Championship Series MVP is hitting .063 after going 0 for 5 in Game 5.

Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez reacts after striking out during the fifth inning in Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Baker said he initially feared Alvarez hurt his shoulder reaching for the ball when he hit the fence.

“He banged his knee on the fence because he had paint or something that came off on his knee,” Baker said.

Braves remember ’95 — sort of

Braves closer Will Smith, a native of Newnan, Georgia, said he cherishes memories of watching Atlanta games with his father. But the memories of the Braves’ 1995 World Series title are faint. Smith was only 6 and on vacation in Panama City, Florida, with his family when the Braves beat the Indians in the World Series.

“I just remember my dad being super excited when Marquis Grissom caught the last out,” Smith said. “I knew they won, but I was still too young to remember much.”

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