Braves edge Astros to reach brink of World Series title

Washington (AFP) – Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler smashed back-to-back home runs and the Atlanta Braves defeated Houston 3-2 on Saturday to reach the brink of their first World Series title since 1995.


Swanson and Soler hammered solo blasts in the seventh inning to grab the lead as the Braves seized a 3-1 edge in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final, which could end with game five Sunday in Atlanta.

"It's such a cool moment for this city but we've got one more and we can't take anything for granted," Swanson said. "We've got to be ready and come out and play our game tomorrow."

The Braves, who improved to 7-0 at home in this year's playoffs, are playing in the World Series for the first time since 1999.

The Astros, who stranded 11 base runners on Saturday, are in the World Series for the third time in five seasons, seeking their first crown since 2017.

Houston relief pitcher Cristian Javier entered in the seventh inning and the 24-year-old Dominican right-hander was tagged for back-to-back solo homers by US slugger Swanson to right field and Cuban pinch-hitter Soler to left field that gave the Braves a 3-2 advantage.

"In that moment, the 'compete' factor went through the roof," Swanson said. "The real thing that matters is competing to win. Something amazing happened."

Atlanta reliever Luke Jackson entered in the eighth and retired the Astros in order, with leftfielder Eddie Rosario making a backhanded running catch to rob Houston's Jose Altuve of a base hit.

In the ninth, Braves left-handed closer Will Smith struck out Michael Brantley, induced a pop fly out by Alex Bregman and got Yordan Alvarez to ground out to first base to end the game.

It was the fourth comeback victory of the playoffs for the Braves, a mark bettered in MLB history only by the six victory rallies of the 1995 Braves on their way to the title.

Both teams relied heavily on relievers with the Astros starting 38-year-old right-hander Zack Greinke, who threw four shutout innings.

Atlanta's Dylan Lee, a 27-year-old left-hander, became the first pitcher whose first MLB start was in the World Series, pitching only 4 2/3 innings since his October 1 MLB debut.

Altuve put Astros ahead

Altuve singled while Brantley and Alvarez walked before Lee was replaced after 1/3 of an inning by right-hander Kyle Wright.

Carlos Correa grounded out to drive in Altuve for a 1-0 Astros edge but Wright struck out Kyle Tucker to end the threat.

Altuve blasted a solo homer in the fourth to give Houston a 2-0 lead.

Astros pitchers scattered four hits over the first five innings before left-hander Brooks Raley entered in the sixth.

Raley surrendered a one-out double to Rosario and walked Freddie Freeman before being replaced by right-hander Phil Maton, who struck out Ozzie Albies.

Atlanta's Austin Riley followed with a single to left field to score Rosario. Joc Pederson walked to load the bases but Maton struck out Travis d'Arnaud to end the threat, setting the stage for the seventh-inning homer heroics.

The Astros were forced to replace reserve catcher Jason Castro with Garrett Stubbs after Castro was put on the Covid-19 injured list.

Former US President Donald Trump attended, doing the controversial "Tomahawk Chop" cheer in support of the Braves before the contest.