Chop cheer to greet Braves as World Series hits Atlanta

Washington (AFP) – The Atlanta Braves, unbeaten at home in this year's Major League Baseball playoffs, will try to reclaim the lead in the 117th World Series on Friday by defeating the Houston Astros.


With their supporters delivering the controversial "Tomahawk Chop" cheer in what some see as an insult to Native Americans, the Braves will try to bounce back from a 7-2 loss Wednesday at Houston that left the best-of-seven series level 1-1.

"Realistically, you want to win two," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "But if you can split and go home, where we've been really good, that's a positive."

The Braves are 5-0 at home in this year's playoffs. But they have a five-game home losing streak in World Series contests from 1996 and 1999.

"The atmosphere is awesome," Snitker said of home games. "Braves Country is real."

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred backed the Braves nickname and "Tomahawk Chop" cheer this week, saying Native Americans in the Atlanta area are "fully supportive of the Braves' program, including the chop. For me, that's kind of the end of the story."

National Council of American Indians president Fawn Sharp ripped Manfred's comments, saying the group has repeatedly told the Braves that "Native people are not mascots and degrading rituals like the 'Tomahawk Chop' that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society."

MLB saw the end of the Cleveland Indians earlier this year, the club retiring its' long-time nickname in favor of Cleveland Guardians starting next season.

Atlanta is playing in the World Series for the first time since 1999 and chasing the team's first title since 1995.

The Astros are in the World Series for the third time in five seasons, having won a 2017 crown tainted by a cheating scandal for stealing signs and lost to Washington in seven games in 2019.

"I think the key is nobody in the room is thinking about being the hero," Astros slugger Jose Altuve said. "We just want to win."

Ian Anderson, a 23-year-old US right-hander, will be Atlanta's starting pitcher in game three against 24-year-old Venezuelan right-hander Luis Garcia for Houston.

It's only the eighth time in World Series history, and first time since 2006, that two rookies will start.

Garcia has had a week off since allowing only one hit over 5 2/3 innings in an American League title-clinching victory over Boston.

Bullpen key for Braves

Atlanta lost star pitcher Charlie Morton to a broken leg in a game-one victory, meaning the Braves will be relying on relief pitchers for key innings the remainder of the series.

"The bullpen is going to play a big part in what we've got going on because we lost a huge starter," Snitker said. "So we're going to have probably two games (Saturday and Sunday) we're going to pitch 18 innings out of that bullpen."

The Braves core of top relievers -- A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith, -- will be working on two days of rest on Friday but knowing they might be needed for the weekend.

"The whole roster is going to have to be used just because of the situation we're in," Snitker said. "So we'll just try and piece it together the best we can."

Moving to a National League ballpark means there will be no designated hitter batting in place of the pitcher as done in the American League. That will force the Braves to pick between sluggers Joc Pederson or Jorge Soler in the outfield.

Pederson is on a 2-for-19 slump with seven strikeouts in his past five games.

The Astros are expected to move American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Yordan Alvarez from designated hitter into an outfielder role.

After going 12-for-23 in the ALCS, Alvarez is only hitting .200 in the World Series and just 1-for-7 against left-handed pitchers.