HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros’ biggest stars were immersed in an offensive funk.
Their young starting pitcher was coming off a brutal performance.
And they were facing a red-hot Atlanta team who had their ace on the mound.
Come on, these are the powerful Astros, who have made October part of their regular routine.
They pounded Atlanta ace Max Fried in his first World Series start and stormed to a 7-2 victory Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 42,833 at Minute Maid Park, tying the Series at 1-game apiece.
“Our team doesn't worry, and our team's very confident,’’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said after Game 1 loss. “We have the knack of bouncing back after losses, tough losses because they don't quit. They don't give up. They don't get down.
“That's the secret of sports. You know, on a loss you have to forget yesterday. That's one of the keys. This team is excellent at forgetting yesterday.
“I mean, you go in our clubhouse, I've never seen these guys worry. They know they can play.’’
Oh, did they ever, doing all of the little things, getting the big hits, and catching the breaks.
They landed only body punches in the first six innings, with just one extra-base hit, but then delivered the knockout punch in the seventh with a Jose Altuve homer, and a double by Michael Brantley. Altuve, who was in a 3-for-29 skid since the start of the ALCS entering the game, hit his 22nd home run of the postseason, tying Bernie Williams, and trailing only Manny Ramirez with 29.
"To hit 22 homers in playoffs and tie (Williams) – always every time that my name is mentioned next to – before, it was Derek Jeter. Now it's Bernie Williams. It means a lot to me," Altuve says. "It makes me keep going out there, hitting homers to help my team, to keep accomplishing things like this.
"As long as we win, everything's good."
Jose Altuve now has 22 career postseason homers, tying Bernie Williams for the second-most all-time, and trailing only Manny Ramirez (29).
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 28, 2021
Really, the game was won in the second inning with nothing more damaging than a single – but hitting five of them – and turning a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 lead.
It began with a harmless one-out single by Kyle Tucker. Yuli Gurriel hit what should have been a double-play grounder, only for Atlanta to be in the shift, and no one covering. Jose Siri was next to thwart Atlanta’s shift with a slow roller towards second that he beat out for a run-scoring single.
Catcher Martin Maldonado, their No. 9 hitter who was in a 2-for-31 slump, lined a single to left field. It scored Gurriel for one run, which turned into two runs when left fielder Eddie Rosario threw wildly to third base, permitting Siri to scamper home. Brantley capped off the inning with a sharp single to right field, scoring Maldonado.
"It gets to be like a feeding frenzy," Baker says, "and everybody wants to get in on it. I was just hoping that we could score some more because you know they were going to threaten before too long."
But, it was all that Astros starter Jose Urquidy needed, cruising for five innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. It was a far cry from his last disastrous start when he couldn’t get out of the second inning in the ALCS when the Boston Red Sox teed off on him, giving up five hits, two walks, and six runs (five earned) in just 1 ⅔ innings.
Urquidy becomes the first Mexican-born pitcher to win multiple World Series starts, and the first Astros’ pitcher to win more than one World Series game.
The series now moves to Atlanta on Friday where they have pulverized the opposition, winning all five of its postseason games at Truist Field, and 10 of 11 overall.
Atlanta, in fact, hasn’t lost two games in a row anywhere in a month, going 20-5 since Sept. 19, outscoring the opposition, 125-74.
Yet, these are the Astros, with the most powerful offense in the game, and they proved over and over this season, you can never underestimate their prowess, no matter how bad they looked in Game 1.
"Like I said last night, these guys don't worry," said Baker. "They weren't worried about last night. I mean, some people in this room thought the series was over already after one game, but it's a seven-game series."
The only one with the concerned look on its face is Atlanta. They accomplished what they wanted with a split in the first two games, turning this into a best-of-five series, but they’ll be playing the rest of the series with only two established starters after Game 1 starter Charlie Morton broke his leg.
"When we came in, you want to split," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "Obviously, you want to win two, but if you get out of here with a split, then that's a good thing going home."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: World Series Game 2: Astros even World Series with Braves