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The first game of the first-ever World Series matchup between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros was largely decided well before the actual conclusion of its four-hour and 26-minute runtime.
With an early burst of offense and more excellent relief work, the visiting Braves rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Astros in Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Jorge Soler, batting leadoff in his first start since returning from a COVID-19 diagnosis, belted a solo home run into the Crawford Boxes on the third pitch -- and very first swing -- of the evening. It was the first home run in the opening plate appearance of any World Series, of which there have now been 117. Ozzie Albies then singled and stole second base -- free tacos! -- before scoring on an Austin Riley RBI double to left-center field that gave the Braves a 2-0 lead. Soler returned to the plate in the top of the second and drove in another run on a fielder’s choice grounder to short to make it 3-0. Adam Duvall added a two-run blast in the top of the third to increased that lead to 5-0 and put an end to the night of Astros starter Framber Valdez.
Valdez, maybe the most effective starting pitcher at inducing groundballs in the entire league, instead gave up a lot of hard airborne contact in this one. Of the 15 batters he faced, nine reached base. He allowed more hits (eight) than he recorded outs (six) in what only the fourth start in World Series history to last two innings or fewer with at least eight hits and five earned runs allowed.
Braves starter Charlie Morton suffered a fractured right fibula when he got struck by a comebacker in the bottom of the second inning, though he was somehow able to remain in the game and retire another three batters -- two via strikeout -- before crumbling to the ground on a delivery to Jose Altuve in the bottom of the third. Morton was lifted at that point and is officially done for the remainder of the World Series, but the Braves’ bullpen picked him up, with A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith ultimately carrying Game 1 to the finish line.
Eddie Rosario, the MVP of the NLCS, hit a leadoff single in the top of the third and a double to the left field corner in the top of the seventh. He also cut down Yuli Gurriel at second base to stymie a late Astros rally in the bottom of the eighth. Rosario has an 11-game postseason hitting streak, the third-longest such streak in Braves history, behind only Marquis Grissom (15) and Mark Lemke (13). He is the first Braves hitter with multiple hits in four straight postseason games since Eddie Perez in 1999.
Atlanta became the first team to have all nine members of its starting lineup get at least one hit in a World Series tilt since the 2014 Royals in Game 6 against the Giants. And this Game 1 victory for the Braves was their first World Series win since Game 2 in 1996 versus the Yankees. They had lost eight World Series games in a row.
Morton’s injury is tough to stomach. The big edge for the Braves in this series was their starting pitching, and Morton might have been asked to pitch twice more -- Game 4 certainly and Game 7 if necessary. But the National League champions are up 1-0 and have essentially erased homefield advantage, if that ever really mattered.
It’ll be Max Fried for the Braves and Jose Urquidy going for the host Astros in Game 2 on Wednesday in Houston. The series shifts to Truist Park in Atlanta this weekend for Games 3, 4, and 5.
Quick Hits: Luis Garcia is lined up to start Game 3 of the World Series against the Braves on Friday. … Jake Meyers (shoulder) was left off the Astros’ World Series roster. … According to Dennis Lin and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Padres have interviewed Ozzie Guillen for their managerial vacancy. … Bubba Starling, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Royals, officially announced his retirement Tuesday via social media. … Shohei Ohtani was presented with a Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award ahead of World Series Game 1. … Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster stepped down from his role in order to spend more time with his family. … Jeremy Hefner will return as the Mets’ pitching coach in 2022. … Diamondbacks claimed right-hander Edwin Uceta off waivers from the Dodgers.