The Braves need only one more win to capture their fourth Major League title – and their second since moving to Atlanta in 1966 – but the Houston Astros are not going away quietly in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night.
Adam Duvall hit a first-inning grand slam off Framber Valdez, but the Astros clawed back to take a 9-5 lead thanks to three RBIs from catcher Martin Maldonado, two from Carlos Correa and pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez, and an RBI double by Alex Bregman.
Freddie Freeman slammed a 460-foot home run in the third inning to give the Braves a 5-4 lead.
The Braves’ early hitting was accompanied by the fans’ controversial ‘tomahawk chop’ chant, which has been derided by Native American groups as racist and insulting, but defended by everyone from team executives to former President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump and wife Melania performed the arm gesture while attending Game 4 in Atlanta on Saturday.
The Braves are among the last holdouts using Native American branding in professional sports after both the Washington Football Team (nee: Redskins) and the Cleveland Guardians (nee: Indians) agreed to change their names in 2020.
Previously, in July of 2020, Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk and team president Derek Schiller said they spoke with various leaders from the Eastern Band of Cherokees, based in North Carolina, who remained in favor the name and chant. However, groups including the Atlanta Indigenous Peoples Association disagree, saying they were not consulted and vehemently oppose the chop chant.
‘We are frequently faced with that misrepresentation or that warrior savage imagery that our ancestors were killed for,’ said Laura Cummings Balgari, co-director of the association, as quoted by CNN. ‘Generally, we are represented as artifacts, people that aren’t really real.’
Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by Yuli Gurriel #10 after scoring a run against the Atlanta Braves
Adam Duvall #14 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game Five of the World Series at Truist Park on Sunday
A pair of Braves fans do the ‘tomahawk chop’ chant and arm gesture during Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday in Atlanta
Houston Astros’ Carlos Correa celebrates after an RBI-double during the third inning on Sunday night in Atlanta
The Braves’ hot hitting was accompanied by the fans’ ‘tomahawk chop’ chant, which has been derided by Native American groups as offensive, but defended by everyone from team executives to former President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump and wife Melania performed the gesture, often described as racist, while attending Game 4 in Atlanta on Saturday. The Braves are among the last holdouts using Native American branding in professional sports after both the Washington Football Team (nee: Redskins) and the Cleveland Guardians (nee: Indians) agreed to change their names in 2020. Previously, in July of 2020, Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk and team president Derek Schiller said they spoke with various leaders from the Eastern Band of Cherokees, based in North Carolina , who remained in favor the name and chant
Freddie Freeman then put the Braves back on top, 5-4, in the third inning with a home run to deep right-center field
Martin Maldonado added three RBIs at the plate, but also made a few plays for the Astros behind the plate on Sunday night
Although did have a solid 1-2-3 second inning, Valdez was knocked around for nearly three full innings — and not just by Freeman and Duvall.
Back in the leadoff spot for Atlanta, Jorge Soler reached on a bad-hop single to left leading off. Freeman flied out and Ozzie Albies grounded into a forceout. Austin Riley singled, and when Houston left fielder Yordan Alvarez threw to third even though he had no chance to catch the speedy Albies, Riley continued to second.
Eddie Rosario walked, loading the bases, and Duvall responded by driving a first-pitch 95.4 mph fastball on the low, outside corner to the opposite field. Right fielder Michael Brantley backtracked but ran out of room, and the ball soared over the 16-foot brick wall in right and into the second row of seats in front of the Chop House restaurant,
It was just the third first-inning slam in Series history, following Elmer Smith in Game 5 in 1920 and Bobby Richardson in Game 3 in 1960.
Valdez was facing the Astros for the second time in the Series after losing the opener.
Meanwhile, rookie Tucker Davidson pitched around a walk to throw a scoreless first inning for the Braves, his first major league action in 4 1/2 months. He was ultimately pulled in the third inning in favor of Jesse Chavez.
Added to the roster on Wednesday after Charlie Morton broke a leg in the opener, Davidson entered with just five major league appearances – the last June 15.
Bregman had been 1 for 14 in this World Series with five strikeouts prior to his RBI double. Houston was hitless in its previous 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and 4 for 31 overall.
In the fifth, Correa had a leadoff single against lefty reliever A.J. Minter for his second hit of the night. Correa moved up on Gurriel’s one-out single, and both runners advanced when Kyle Tucker grounded out to the right side.
Bregman was intentionally walked to bring up Maldonado, the light-hitting catcher, with the bases loaded. Looking to get on base and tie the game any which way, Maldonado moved right on top of the plate and appeared to be taking all the way early in the count.
He showed bunt on 3-1, and Minter missed way inside to force in the tying run with a walk. Gonzalez, a pinch hitter, dumped the next pitch into shallow left field for a two-run single that put the Astros ahead for the first time in Game 5 after they trailed 4-0 in the first.
Gonzalez, added to the roster for the World Series, fisted a soft looper that came off the bat at just 71 mph and landed only 235 feet from home plate.
Chris Martin struck out Jose Altuve to prevent further damage.
Phil Maton came out of the bullpen for Houston in the bottom of the sixth and worked a scoreless inning. He gave up a two-out double to Austin Riley before retiring NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario on a comebacker.
Amid ongoing controversy over the Braves’ name and ‘tomahawk chop’ chant, several fans were seen wearing headdresses
A few fans wear headdresses prior to Game Five of the World Series between the Astros and Braves in Atlanta
A fan holds a sign prior to Game Five between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves of the World Series at Truist Park
A fan dressed for halloween is seen at Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Atlanta’s Truist Park
Tucker Davidson #64 of the Atlanta Braves warms up prior to Game Five of the World Series
Doug (R) with daughter Sydney of Atlanta and dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 for Halloween during Sunday’s Game 5
A fan looks on prior to Game Five of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park
A Atlanta Braves fan holds up a sign during batting practice before Game 5 of the World Series against the Houston Astros
Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies walks across the field ahead of Game 5 of the World Series against the Astros
A fan watches during batting practice before Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Atlanta’s Truist Park
Atlanta Braves designated hitter Jorge Soler smiles during batting practice before Game 5 on Sunday at Truist Park
Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw out the ceremonial first pitch earlier in the evening.
Maddux, wearing his Braves jersey, tipped his cap in response to an ovation from fans as he walked onto the field. Fittingly, he threw the pitch to Eddie Perez, who was often his designated catcher.
Perez, also a former Braves coach, now is a special advisor for player development for the team.
Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards for the Chicago Cubs and the Braves, including in 1995 when he posted a remarkable 19-2 record with a 1.63 ERA for Atlanta’s 1995 World Series champion team.
It was a rare Atlanta appearance for ‘Mad Dog’ Maddux. The 55-year-old Maddux is the pitching coach for UNLV.
Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw out the ceremonial first pitch earlier in the evening. Maddux, wearing his Braves jersey, tipped his cap in response to an ovation from fans as he walked onto the field. Fittingly, he threw the pitch to Eddie Perez, who was often his designated catcher
In what could be the final at-bat of his career, Astros hurler Zach Greinke became the first pitcher to get a pinch hit in a World Series game since 1923 with a fourth-inning single.
There’s a good chance Major League Baseball will bring the designated hitter to the National League next year – likely forever. That means Sunday night’s game at Truist Park might mark the final time a pitcher ever appears in a big league batting order.
‘I think it’s definitely going to be pretty special that this could be the last pitchers ever hitting in baseball. We’ve definitely brought it up,’ Braves starter Ian Anderson said.
No more Madison Bumgarner swinging for the fences. No more Bartolo Colon flailing and losing his helmet – or shocking everyone by going deep. No more Greinke grounding a single up the middle, as he did Saturday night in Game 4.
Say goodbye to double switches. Sacrifice bunts would shrivel up and automatic intentional walks to face the pitcher would vanish, too. So would the risk of a $20 million ace pulling his hamstring while running the bases.
Plus, the little nuances that would disappear: the bat boy running out a warmup jacket to the pitcher at first base, the on-deck hitter lingering near the batter’s box to give his hurler more time to walk back to the dugout.
Pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros hits a single against Kyle Wright on Saturday night in Atlanta
More than a century of strategy and baseball fabric, ripped away.
‘Once it ever changes to no DH, then it will probably never change back, and that’s something that would sadden me,’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Good riddance, says Houston shortstop Carlos Correa.
‘To me, that’s not real baseball,’ he said Saturday. ‘I want to see real hitters out there.’
Sure, a few pitchers might get an at-bat here and there, maybe in extra innings when teams run out of position players.
So who knows, maybe the Hall of Fame will get the bat Framber Valdez uses when he starts Game 5 for Houston. The Braves plan a bullpen game, so it’s possible none of their pitchers will hit.
‘To be honest with you, the last time that I hit was in the regular season in San Diego, I thought I was done hitting,’ Valdez said through a translator Saturday.
‘Fourteen or 15 was the last time that I hit regularly in a league. I liked to hit in that era,’ he said. ‘It’s a little bit different hitting as a pitcher here in the big leagues. So I still like hitting in softball back home in the Dominican, but hitting as a major league pitcher, I don’t like it.’
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 31: Manager Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves looks on during batting practice ahead of Game Five of the World Series against the Houston Astros at Truist Park on Sunday
The DH debate has raged since 1973, when Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first player to fill the role. It continues to this day, when American League teams often feel at a disadvantage when the World Series shifts to an NL park.
Holding a 3-1 lead, the Braves hope to clinch the crown Sunday night. If not, the scene moves back to a DH setup at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Since the DH era began, the only pitchers to homer in the World Series have been Joe Blanton for Philadelphia in 2008 and Ken Holtzman for Oakland in 1974.
Overall, pitchers are just 3 for 49 (.061) at the plate this postseason.
Not that many pitchers do a lot of damage at other times, either – besides Shohei Ohtani, of course. Big league hurlers hit a collective .108 this season. Max Scherzer, who used to handle the bat fairly well, was a whopping 0 for 62 for the Dodgers and Washington, didn’t safely reach base once and struck out half the time.
Greinke, meanwhile, does fine at the plate. So much so that Baker moved him from the pitcher’s customary ninth spot in the batting order to eighth in Game 4.
The only other pitcher who didn’t bat ninth in the World Series was Babe Ruth back in 1918. Greinke responded with the first hit by a pitcher in the Fall Classic since Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in 2016.
‘Some of the guys don’t miss it, some pitchers. And there’s some pitchers that absolutely miss it. Like Greinke, he’s dying to hit,’ Baker said earlier this week.
Baker would prefer to see things stay the way they are.
‘I’m in favor of leaving it the way it is. Let the DH stand in the American League, and in the National League play the National League style of ball because they’re both interesting,’ he said.
: A fan holds a sign in Game Five of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park
Braves reliever Jesse Chavez agreed.
‘My personal opinion, I think it should stay the same. I think it’s beneficial for the game because it adds two different aspects. It’s a chess game out there. It’s not checkers,’ he explained.
Braves manager Brian Snitker has spent four decades in the Atlanta system at all levels as a player, coach and skipper. He admits he would miss the double switches, bunts and other aspects of National League strategy.
But after watching the NL use the DH in 2020 during the pandemic-shortened season, he saw a lot to like.
‘I just see so many pitchers now that go to the plate and, No. 1, they don’t want to,’ Snitker said. ‘Honestly, I think it will be a better game to watch. It will be more action, more stuff going on.’
‘Prior to experiencing it last year, I was kind of like the old guard. I was not for it. I am for it now,’ he added. ‘Because I see for every Max Fried and Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner, there’s 15 guys who can’t hit. Again, they don’t grow up hitting. They grow up pitching, and they’re not hitting.’
A general view of the field prior to Game Five of the World Series at Atlanta’s Truist Park on Sunday afternoon
DONALD AND MELANIA TRUMP DO TOMAHAWK CHOP
Only months after calling for a boycott of Major League Baseball, former President Donald Trump did the tomahawk chop with Atlanta Braves fans at Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
Trump stood beside former first lady Melania, as they chopped away with fans before the game between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros from a private suite.
It was the first time Melania had been seen in public since July, when she was spotted leaving the Trump Tower in New York City with son Barron, and the first time she had been seen with her husband since April.
Trump was expected to be joined by political allies, including US Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
Former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania perform the tomahawk chop before for Game 4 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves
The Tomahawk Chop sees people move their arm forwards and backwards with an open palm, simulating chopping that would be done with a Tomahawk, a single-handed ax, originally constructed by Native Americans.
Among the reasons the chop has been slammed for being offensive and promoting a racist stereotype or caricature of Native Americans.
‘The name ”Braves,” the tomahawk adorning the team’s uniform, and the ”tomahawk chop” that the team exhorts its fans to perform at home games are meant to depict and caricature not just one tribal community but all Native people, and that is certainly how baseball fans and Native people everywhere interpret them,’ National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘In our discussions with the Atlanta Braves, we have repeatedly and unequivocally made our position clear — Native people are not mascots, and degrading rituals like the ‘tomahawk chop’ that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society,’ Scott added.
Trump released a statement in a mass email to his supporters Saturday about his planned World Series appearance:
‘Looking forward to being at the World Series in Atlanta tonight. Thank you to the Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, and Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, for the invite. Melania and I are looking forward to a wonderful evening watching two great teams!’
MLB denied ever making the invitation and said in a statement, ‘He requested to attend the game.’
Among the reasons the chop is offensive is because it promotes a racist stereotype or caricature of Native Americans but the Trump’s followed thousands of others in the crowd
Former football player and political candidate Herschel Walker interacts with former first lady and president of the United States Melania and Donald Trump. Trump was an owner of the New Jersey Generals when Walker played for the team in the now-defunct league, and they have maintained a relationship
The visit to Truist Park provided Trump an opportunity to be seen with Walker, the former University of Georgia Heisman Trophy winner and running back with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and USFL New Jersey Generals.
Trump was an owner of the Generals when Walker played for the team in the now-defunct league, and they have maintained a relationship. Trump has encouraged Walker to run for Senate.
Indigenous peoples advocacy groups say the Braves’ name and ‘tomahawk chop’ chant are both racist, but the Trump’s went ahead and did it anyway
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Walker on Wednesday. Walker is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Trump encouraged a boycott of MLB games after Manfred removed the All-Star Game from Atlanta. The game instead was held in Denver.
President Joe Biden supported moving the game, though some Braves fans and businesses near Truist Park complained they were being unfairly punished.
Manfred’s decision announced in April followed a protest of Georgia’s new voting law, which includes an ID requirement for mail-in votes. Critics say the law will negatively affect communities of color.
Trump may have selected Atlanta in hopes of a more positive reception than he received in his last World Series appearance. When still in office, he was booed when he sat in the stands at Game 5 of the 2019 World Series between the Astros and Washington at Nationals Park.
Trump was not shown on the Truist Park video board before the game however one moment that was caught on camera between former president Trump together with his wife Melania happened when the former first lady’s smile quickly drain away from her face.
It came just as the crowd had been cheering for the couple who even joined in the Braves signature ‘Tomahawk’ gesture prior to the start of the game.
Trump and Melania were both seen to be smiling broadly with the former president looking comfortable as he gestured and pointed to spectators who were waving back to him.
While television cameras were trained on the couple, Melania suddenly appeared to grow tired of the wave and point routine, and quickly turned away, rolling her eyes and her signature smile gone in an instant.
– Associated Press