LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Max Fried hurled six shutout innings and Jorge Soler smashed a towering home run as the Atlanta Braves captured their first World Series since 1995 with a 7-0 rout of the Houston Astros on Tuesday.
Starting pitcher Fried put on a clinic in game six striking out six batters for the Braves, who wrapped up the best-of-seven series four games to two in front of a crowd of 42,060 at Minute Maid Park in Texas.
“I had to dig deep,” said the lefthander Fried. “I knew how much they believed in me and I just had to go out there and give it one more outing. I couldn’t be happier to do it with this group of guys.”
Fried got plenty of support from the Braves’ batters, who scored most of their runs on Tuesday via the long ball.
Cuba’s Soler was the biggest contributor on offense and was named MVP of the 2021 World Series. The veteran outfielder, whom the Braves acquired at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, hit his third go-ahead home run of the series.
The designated hitter clobbered a 446-foot three run homer out of the ballpark in the third, Dansby Swanson belted a two-run shot two innings later to give the Braves a commanding 5-0 lead and Freddie Freeman had a solo shot in the seventh to round out the scoring.
Closer Will Smith got Astros batter Yuli Gurriel to ground out to shortstop Swanson for the final out, sparking a wild celebration on the field.
While the 27-year-old Fried rebounded from a pair of subpar performances in his two previous outings, the Astros couldn’t overcome their pitching woes, which included a patchwork of relievers coming on after an early exit by rookie starter Luis Garcia.
“It’s one of those dream come true moments,” Fried said. “You dream about it happening and especially being able to come back and redeem myself after game two. At the end of the day I was just trying to win a ball game for these guys. I couldn’t be happier for this group.”
The Braves jumped out to a big lead early for the second straight game. They hit a grand slam in the first inning of game five but couldn’t hold onto the lead.
This time there was no letdown as Fried and his two relievers, Tyler Matzek and Smith, held the powerful Houston batters in check and the Braves won their second championship since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966.
“We’ve been waiting for a championship in this city for a long time and I’m glad we delivered it,” said Freeman.
There was drama from the opening inning as Fried escaped an injury, while having to work his way out of an early jam. The Astros had runners on second and third when Fried struck out Gurriel to end the inning.
One of those stranded runners was Michael Brantley who reached first base safely despite missing the bag and stomping on the right ankle of Fried, who was not hurt. The Braves did not challenge the call but replays showed they could have.
In the third inning, Soler’s monster homer with two outs to left field also scored Eddie Rosario and Ozzie Albies. Soler’s shot sailed so far that it cleared the wall and landed on the street outside the Houston stadium.
It was Soler’s third home run of this World Series, tying him with three others for the most by a Braves’ player, including Hank Aaron who did it in 1957. The others are Ryan Klesko in 1995 and Lonnie Smith in 1991.
– Soler power –
Soler’s blast chased Astros starter Garcia from the mound. The rookie righthander was pitching on just three days rest so manager Dusty Baker wasted no time giving him the hook. In two and two thirds innings, Garcia allowed three runs on two hits and struck out three.
The Braves added three more runs in the fifth inning, including Swanson’s two run homer to left field that scored Albies for his second run of the game.
First baseman Freeman made it 6-0 with a double to deep centre field which scored Soler, who reached base on a walk.
Freeman added another home run in the seventh to make it 7-0.
“I still have some unfinished business. I love these guys over here,” said Astros Baker.
The World Series triumph completed a remarkable turnaround for Atlanta, who were 52-55 on August 1 and seemingly out of contention for a playoff place after a season disrupted by injuries to key personnel.
“Every single kind of thing that could go wrong, went wrong, and we overcame every single one of those things,” Freeman said.
“This group came every single day and worked and worked and worked, and now we’re world champions.”