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Braves pitchers baffle Astros to grab World Series lead

The Braves, who improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs, seek their first championship since 1995.

Atlanta Braves Travis d'Arnaud reacts after hitting a double.
Atlanta Braves Travis d'Arnaud reacts after hitting a double.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

ATLANTA’S IAN ANDERSON and four Braves relief pitchers combined to allow only two hits in blanking the Houston Astros 2-0 on Friday and seize the lead of the World Series.

Anderson became the first World Series rookie pitcher since 1912 with five no-hit innings as the Braves grabbed a 2-1 edge in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship, which continues in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday.

“It was something special, something you dream about,” Anderson said. “The crowd really brought it and I felt like I was feeding off it.”

Anderson’s 1.26 earned-run average through eight career playoff starts ranks second on the all-time list.

“I don’t know what it is about the post-season,” Anderson said. “It brings my pitching to another level.”

The 23-year-old American right-hander walked three and struck out four while throwing 39 of his 76 pitches for strikes.

But he was removed by Braves manager Brian Snitker, who must carefully use pitchers after star Charlie Morton suffered a broken leg in game one.

“It was fine,” Anderson said. “Obviously you want to stay out there but I have the utmost trust in Snit and those guys in the bullpen. I have all the faith in the world in them.

“Those guys are going to get us where we need to be.”

Braves reliever A.J. Minter mystified a Houston lineup hitting .276 in the playoffs in the sixth and Luke Jackson kept the Astros hitless in the seventh.

But Atlanta left-hander Tyler Matzek lost the no-hit bid in the eighth when pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz singled to left field.

The only no-hitters in MLB playoff history have been Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay’s no-hitter for Philadelphia in 2010.

Not since the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals had a team gone hitless through seven innings in a World Series contest.

“We didn’t threaten very often,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “But when you shut us down, usually our guys come back and have a big game the next night. I hope history repeats itself.”

With Atlanta clinging to a 1-0 edge, Matzek had to hang on as Jose Siri replaced Diaz as a pinch runner then stole second base and took third on a throwing error by Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

“I came in a little lackadaisical,” Matzek said. “I wanted to turn it on for the guys. I didn’t want to let the guys down. We worked so hard.”

Matzek got Michael Brantley to fly out to third base to end the inning.

D’Arnaud smashed a solo homer for Atlanta in the eighth for an insurance run.

Braves left-hander Will Smith allowed Alex Bregman a single in the ninth but Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker flew out to end Houston’s final threat.

“Flush it and move on,” Bregman said. “Give them credit. They pitched their tails off.”

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The Braves, who improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs, seek their first championship since 1995.

“We’re definitely confident in the locker room,” Anderson said. “We’re able to win games in a multitude of ways. It’s always nice to win a tight one.”

Anderson and Houston right-hander Luis Garcia were only the eighth rookie starting pitchers to oppose each other in a World Series game, the first since 2006.

Garcia surrendered the first run in the third inning when Eddie Rosario walked, took second on Freddie Freeman’s single and scored on Austin Riley’s double down the third base line.

The Astros stranded two runners in the fourth after Alvarez walked and Correa was hit by a pitch, but Anderson kept Houston hitless.

“I was on the edge of letting some things get away,” Anderson admitted. “But I hung on and stayed with it and kept it going.”

Anderson was the youngest World Series pitcher since 1947 not to allow a hit in the first four innings.

 © – AFP, 2021

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