Wednesday, December 1

How the Braves’ defensive mistakes helped the Astros come back in Game 2 of the World Series

The Braves haven’t exactly played the cleanest baseball in the first two games of the World Series.

In Game 1, shortstop Dansby Swanson was evaluated for an error on a groundout that allowed Kyle Tucker to score in the fourth that could have been a late-inning double play. But a huge 5-0 lead at the time of the error helped Atlanta absorb the run as the Braves won the first game 6-2.

That wasn’t the case in Game 2. The Astros benefited from several Atlanta errors on the field that ultimately helped play a role in the Astros’ 7-2 win to even the series. Between a questionable defensive change, an outfield and infield error, and two potentially missed double plays, the Braves gave Houston multiple opportunities to help the cause in Game 2.

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Changing from Yuli Gurriel

It may not have appeared as a box-scoring error, but the decision to trade Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the second inning was a baffling decision, given his batting tendencies.

He got close to bat with Kyle Tucker at first and one away, and the Braves decided to move him heavy to the left, with second baseman Ozzie Albies playing to the left of the second base bag. Look where Gurriel sent this base hit:

That’s probably just to the right of where Albies would normally play. Even if the Braves decide to tilt him further into the bag at a more traditional double play depth, Albies fields that ball and it’s a double play to end the inning. Instead, Tucker moves up to third position and both running backs move closer to score.

Gurriel is not a dead throw hitter. In fact, he wouldn’t even be considered a side hitter. According to Baseball Savant, Gurriel served only 33.3 percent of his balls hit in 2021, while he hit 40.9 percent down the middle and sent 25.7 percent the other way.

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It wasn’t like he was a heavier hitter against lefties, like Max Fried is. According to Fangraphs, Gurriel scores 33.9 percent against lefties in 2021; 35.7 percent go up to half and 30.4 percent are affected in the opposite direction in 2021.

Divisions have dramatically helped defenses record more outs against certain hitters. But Gurriel, the American League batting champion, is not a guy to switch to.

Eddie Rosario’s Wandering Pitch

That second inning was where the game really started to drift away from the Braves.

After Gurriel’s hit, Jose Siri threw an infield single that scored Tucker and moved Gurriel to second. Then catcher Martín Maldonado singled to the left to score Gurriel. When Siri moved up to third, left fielder Eddie Rosario, seeing he had a chance to get Siri out, fired toward base. The problem: no one was covering.

The speedy Siri was able to score after the miss, while Maldonado moved up to second. The latter came in to score two batters later, when Michael Brantley singled down the right side.

There are some aspects to analyze here. First, Rosario needed to make sure she was throwing that at an infielder, and not just the base. However, that no one was covering the base in that situation is also a mistake, as Rosario had a chance to catch Siri trying to ascend. It looked like Swanson was trying to stand out in left field as the cutting man, even though the groundout was relatively shallow fielded. Both he and third baseman Austin Riley began heading back to third base as soon as the throw was fired.

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“There are so many baseball plays that don’t go the way you want. I don’t know if the guys thought there would be a play at home and then he threw the ball to third and we got caught in a bit.” It happens, “the Braves manager said, Brian Snitker.

Snitker said that ideally the ball would have been thrown to the court man and driven from there.

“The simple game,” Snitker said. “Because when a ball is hit like that, that’s where guys instinctively go.”

It was a poorly executed general play for the Braves. If Rosario doesn’t attempt the shot, they are runners on the corners instead of another home run and a runner on second. Siri will likely still come home to Altuve’s lineout or Brantley’s single, but Maldonado almost certainly won’t score and the Braves keep the game at least in a save situation.

Two almost double plays in the sixth

It looked like the Braves might come out of a tough jam in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fried, still in the game, walked Yordan Alvarez to lead the inning and gave a single to Carlos Correa to make a pair with no one out, prompting the Braves to bring in Dylan Lee.

Lee immediately landed a groundout from Tucker’s bat to Albies that looked like it might be a double play, but a slightly off-line throw from Albies, coupled with Tucker’s speed, forced Atlanta to settle for a force out at second. That left the runners in the corners one away. It’s not a big deal, there’s still a double play to go.

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Gurriel then hit one to Swanson, who flipped Albies in the second. With Gurriel’s speed, it seemed almost certain that it would be a double play.

But Albies couldn’t hold onto the ball when Tucker was entering. He and Gurriel were both declared safe, which also meant that Alvarez crossed the plate and increased Houston’s lead. The Braves, arguing that Albies dropped the ball in the transfer, asked for a review. The ruling came out the same.

It sure looks like it might have been on the transfer. Even if the decision had been reversed, Alvarez still scores to take a 6-2 lead and rack up even more. Fortunately for Atlanta, no other runs were crossed even though the bases were filled later in the inning. Albies scored an error on the play for a missed catch.

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