Thursday, January 27 2022

Statistics say that Jorge Soler’s home run in the third inning of Game 6 of the 2021 World Series traveled 446 feet. Statistics lie. Soler’s home run is still flying, still going upward, and as long as Atlanta fans remember this team, that ball will never land.

For the first time in a quarter-century, the Atlanta Braves are world champions once again. 

The Braves throttled the Houston Astros 7-0, the first shutout in a clinching World Series game since 2005 and the final notes of a bravura second-half performance from a team that won fewer games than any other team in the postseason. Soler hit the decisive homer, but this was a full-team performance. Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman added bar-the-door home runs, and Max Fried pitched the franchise’s finest game of postseason ball since Tom Glavine won Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, the last time Atlanta captured the crown. 

Momentum appeared on Houston’s side; the Astros fought back from a first-inning Atlanta grand slam to capture Game 5 with authority, and returned the series to Minute Maid Park, where they were 7-2 this postseason. After a travel day, both teams had the opportunity to reset their pitching rotations. The Braves ran out Max Fried on full rest, while Houston opted to go with Game 3 starter Luis Garcia on short rest.

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HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 02: Jorge Soler #12 of the Atlanta Braves hits a three run home run against the Houston Astros during the third inning in Game Six of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 02, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 02: Jorge Soler #12 of the Atlanta Braves hits a three run home run against the Houston Astros during the third inning in Game Six of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 02, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Braves slugger Jorge Soler blasts a go-ahead three-run homer in World Series Game 6 as Atlanta clinched a title against the Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Fried, who struggled in his Game 2 start, wobbled through the opening batters of the night. Jose Altuve singled, and Michael Brantley reached on a strange error when Fried got spiked in the ankle attempting to cover first base, and Minute Maid Park shook with anticipation. But Fried settled down and set down the next three Astros, two by strikeout.

Meanwhile, Garcia, with his distinctive rock-the-baby motion, had little trouble with the Braves his first time through the lineup. But after an Ozzie Albies single and an Eddie Rosario walk, Soler hammered a Garcia pitch deep into the Houston night.

No one in the Atlanta dugout — or wearing Atlanta merch, for that matter — was at all comfortable with a three-run lead. The Braves let a four-run first-inning lead slip away in Game 5, but more than that, the cloud that always seems to loom over Atlanta sports was not far from anyone’s mind. 

But this night was about killing curses, not succumbing to them. Atlanta added three more runs in the fifth inning, two on a Dansby Swanson homer and another on a double off the bat of Freddie Freeman. The now-free-agent Freeman added another run in the top of the seventh with a solo shot to deep center field.

“Understandable why we get those questions [about curses], but we killed the narrative in the NLCS, and we get to kill it for a long time,” Freeman said. “This city has been hungry for a championship for so long. I cannot wait to see the crowds here in the next couple days when we get back home.”

“I was here in Houston when the Super Bowl happened, and it just kind of feels like no better story could be written than God making us come back here and winning the World Series in Houston,” Swanson said. “So everything comes full circle.”

Houston twitched in the bottom of the sixth, when Brantley singled to deep short. With two outs, Carlos Correa swung at a third strike but the ball got past Travis d’Arnaud. Houston appeared to be on the way to getting two men on base, but the ball kicked off the back wall, and d’Arnaud caught Correa by a step. That meant the end of Fried’s night, a six-inning performance that was the longest by any starter in the entire World Series.

Everything fell the Braves’ way on this night. Tyler Matzek came on in relief to start the seventh, and Joc Pederson snared a plummeting Kyle Tucker shot that would have scored at least a run. Matzek struck out the side in the eighth, and the Braves fans gathered to watch the team play at the Battery in Cobb County grew even more frenzied. 

Will Smith came on to close out the Astros in the bottom of the ninth. After Brantley singled his way on, Correa flied out to Adam Duvall in right field. Yordan Alvarez flew out to Rosario. The Astros’ season came down to Yuli Gurriel, hitless on the night, and he grounded out to Swanson to close out a most unlikely, unexpected Atlanta championship. 

After the game, Freeman pointed to two departed Atlanta icons as inspiration. “Losing Hank [Aaron] this past off-season and us playing the Brewers in the first round, it kind of just was setting up for one of those special years,” he said. “It’s just been a special, special run that we wish Hank and Phil [Niekro] were all here to see this, but I know they’re up there watching. They’re so thrilled for us. This organization’s been hungry for a championship for a long time, so I’m glad we got it to him.”

______

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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