HOUSTON – When it comes to DIY projects, the Braves are the envy of the baseball neighborhood. The same team that made it to the All-Star Game 44-45 and with an outfield from Orlando Arcia, Guillermo Heredia and Abraham Almonte opened the World Series with four sluggers in their lineup who were elsewhere the first half of the season.
All Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Joc Peterson did in Tuesday’s Game 1 was hit six hits and drive in four runs in what was the fastest getaway ever seen in 117 World Series starts: runs in the first, second and third innings on Atlanta’s road to a 6-2 win over the Astros.
Faster than you can lay down hardwood floors, wallpaper, and paneling, the Braves look completely different from the group that played .500 ball for the first 110 games – the longest stretch of sleepwalking baseball for a team ever. way ended up in the World Series. . They are 41-21 from (.661).
“How it all worked is amazing,” says hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. “It works by the caliber of the people and the back of their baseball cards. They just fit perfectly. And we have a very loving group around here and they really care about each other. “
The Astros had to console themselves with small victories. Braves reliever AJ Minter is unavailable for Game 2 after throwing 43 pitches, the most of his career, to emergency relief from starter Charlie Morton, who left with a broken right leg after being hit. with a batted ball.
Tyler Matzek, Atlanta’s hottest reliever, faced six less-leveraged hitters (with a five-run lead) and lost his invincibility cloak. Three of Houston’s six hitters hit him on hits, including Yordan Alvarez, who broke a wall slider in center for a triple. Surprisingly, it was the first time since June 24 that Matzek allowed a hit with his slider. The hitters had been 0 for 40 against their last 203 sliders.
Otherwise, almost everything about Game 1 favored the Braves, including the American League rules, allowing them to exhaust the four horsemen who saved them from the Apocalypse in the same lineup.
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You knew things were going to be different when the game began with a 6-foot-4, 235-pound designated hitter entering the area as the leadoff hitter. Soler is as big as a linebacker and hits like one. He was only the third designated hitter to hit leadoff in a World Series opener, but the previous two fit the traditional table-setting leader profile: Lonnie Smith with the 1991 Braves and Chuck Knoblauch with the New York Yankees. 2000.
“It’s scary,” says Seitzer. “That’s a damn presence in that batter’s box.”
Soler was acquired on the July 30 trade deadline from Kansas City, the same day GM Alex Anthopolous also traded for Duvall of Miami and Rosario of Cleveland, which occurred two weeks after he traded for Pederson of the puppies. It was an impressively full cart for someone who vowed never to make the same mistake he made as the Blue Jays GM in 2014 again – leaving the trade deadline with an empty cart and their players checked.
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Blue Jays outfielder José Bautista captured the clubhouse anguish when he responded: [trades] on the deadline and find a way to improve the list. Somehow we didn’t. ”The disheartened Jays came out of the wild card position.
When Anthopolous got Soler, he told manager Brian Snitker that Soler would be “a right bat off the bench.” Next, Seitzer looked at Soler’s video. He immediately ran out of the room to find bench coach Walt Weiss.
“I grabbed Walt and said, ‘Come here and check this out!’” Seitzer says. “I said, ‘We need to go talk to Snit and reconsider this’ bat off the bench’ thing. And Snit says, ‘Well, let me call Alex and see what he thinks.’
Soler’s slugging jumped after joining the Braves (.370 to .524), as it did with Rosario (.389 to .573), Duvall (.478 to .513) and Pederson (.418 to .428). ). Anthopolous went 4 out of 4.
Before Game 1, Seitzer formulated a plan for his hitters against Houston starter Framber Valdez.
“We wanted to try to see it in the center of the area,” says Duvall. “That’s always a good idea, but with the way your ball moves it’s especially important to put it in the middle. The way his ball moves from the zone to the outside of the zone, he gets a lot of chases. “
It only took three pitches for the plan to come to fruition. Soler looked at two leads out of the zone. When Valdez threw another sinker that stayed in the middle, Soler smashed it against the Crawford Boxes. It was the first time the leadoff hitter in a World Series hit a home run.
“Always?” Seitzer says incredulously.
“Wow,” says Seitzer. “He has a very good eye. Make good swing decisions. It shuts down early on the secondary stuff. He just has great at-bats. That success in getting us on the board was tremendously huge. “
Pederson was the next among the Four Horsemen to be heard from. He hit a Valdez sinker in the second for a single that followed one by Travis d’Arnaud. That eventually led to a run when Astros manager Dusty Baker played his inside with one out when he was already down 2-0, conceding a run with his grounder on the mound. Soler forced the delivery of gifts with a routine ground ball driven to shortstop
Fellow jockeys Rosario (single) and Duvall (home run) contributed next, taking over the third-inning runs and knocking down a sad Valdez of the game with five runs and eight hits.
“We had a plan,” says Seitzer, “and the guys executed it perfectly.”
Rosario is the leading rider of the Braves. With two more hits, he is hitting .465 this postseason. His calm at the plate is, to borrow from his hitting coach, monstrous. Two years ago, Rosario threw 43.2% of pitches out of the zone, the fourth worst chase rate in baseball. This postseason, his chase rate has dropped to 30.6%. He’s crushing pitches from line to line.
“He is a special talent,” says Seitzer. “When they lock you up, everything slows down. There is no herky-jerky in the body or anything. He’s in a good place. “
How do I get there?
“Skipper decided to deploy it,” says Seitzer. “He wasn’t playing regularly when he first got here, and his at-bats were so consistent and Joc was fighting a bit, so Skip made the decision to roll with him and see where he goes.
“We hear when we get it, ‘Big times, this is the guy.’ He has good hands, he has juice and, yes, in the big moments he takes a step forward. ”
Did someone say “great moments”? Rosario has a career postseason OPS of 1,104. Among all the left-handed hitters with at least 70 plate appearances in the postseason, the only better hitters than Rosario are a pair of guys named Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (1,214 apiece).
The Braves are unrecognizable from their old midseason self. Rosario is turning into the baby. Soler is TJ Watt at leadoff. Duvall is the second coming of Gus Zernial, who 70 years ago was the last to lead the league in RBIs while switching teams midway. And Pederson has done more for the pearl industry than anyone since Coco Chanel. Welcome to the happy world.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.