The Astros rallied in the seventh inning on Tuesday night to beat the Braves 9-6 and stay alive in Game 5. The game was tied at 6 when Houston’s Jose Altuve hit a two-run homer off Braves reliever Brad Brach with two outs, then George Springer followed with an RBI single before Josh Reddick delivered a three-run homer for insurance.
After surrendering a first-inning grand slam to Ronald Acuna Jr., who became just the third player in MLB history to do so in postseason play, the Astros offense exploded for nine runs over four innings against Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz and relievers Dan Winkler and Luke Jackson.
The Astros took a 4-1 lead in the second inning on an RBI double by Alex Bregman, then jumped on Foltynewicz for two more runs in the third before scratching across three in the fourth. Acuna’s grand slam came with two outs in the first at bat of his postseason career, and it was the first home run ever given up by Justin Verlander in the playoffs.
Verlander had gone 43 1/3 innings without allowing a long ball, setting an MLB record for most consecutive innings at the start of a career with that distinction (passing Herb Pennock, who held the previous mark at 42 2/3). It came as little surprise that Verlander would not be part of the decision in this game, though he did allow only three hits and one run in six innings before handing things over to the bullpen.
The 34-year old righty struck out six and walked two while improving to 11-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 17 starts following a loss this season. He had allowed two or fewer hits in five of his last six starts and has yet to pitch past the sixth inning in any of his seven postseason outings.
On the other side, Foltynewicz had been on a roll coming into this game with a 1.65 ERA over his last four starts while punching out 32 batters in 24 innings. The hard-throwing righty was charged with six runs on six hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings, snapping a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless World Series appearances.
Winkler pitched two innings and allowed four runs on four hits and a walk before Luke Jackson (1-0) picked up the win with 1 1/3 innings of one-run ball.
Chris Devenski (1) and Roberto Osuna (4) combined for 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief to close out the win, with Houston’s offense having done quite enough damage already.
Altuve finished with three hits, three runs and an RBI while Bregman (2-for-4) and Springer (2-for-3 with two walks, four runs and an RBI) also had big nights at the plate. Alonso went 2-for-4 with three runs batted in while Reddick finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs before Yuli Gurriel (1-for-5) and Carlos Correa (1-for-2) also had a pair of hits apiece.
The Astros finally advanced to the ALCS after losing in the ALDS each of the last three seasons, having been knocked out by the eventual World Series champion in consecutive years (Royals in 2014 and 2015, then by the Blue Jays in 2016).