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Astros Drop Game 3 to Braves, 2-0, Narrowly Avoid No-Hitter

Luis Garcia and the bullpen did all they could to keep the club in the game on Friday night, but ultimately the offense just never arrived.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros had a brush with the bad kind of history Friday night, coming within six outs of being no hit before ultimately being shut out 2-0, dropping World Series game 3. Braves’ starter Ian Anderson shoved through heavy rain for much of the evening, showing no discomfort in the adverse conditions with command of all three of his pitches. The Astros’ hurlers were strong in their own right, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with Atlanta’s dominance.

The game actually did get off on a good foot for the Astros in the top of the first. Ian Anderson went 3-0 on Jose Altuve before ultimately walking him, but the baserunner was quickly erased by a Michael Brantley GIDP. Alex Bregman would follow with another walk to extend the frame, but a well hit ball by Yordan Alvarez found a glove to end the inning. Luis Garcia answered with a big strikeout of Eddie Rosario in a full count to lead off the first, and followed with a first pitch popout of Freddie Freeman to keep his pitch count in check. He’d go to another full count on Ozzie Albies, who took ball four, and then another on Austin Riley, but struck out the cleanup hitter to end the threat.

Anderson hardly broke a sweat in the second, throwing a total of 12 pitches to record three outs, including a foul pop and a strikeout. Garcia got into a bit of a jam in his half of the frame. After striking out leadoff man Jorge Soler and inducing a groundout from Adam Duvall, the Astros’ starter surrendered a ground rule double to Travis d’Arnaud. With the pitcher due up second at that point, the Astros elected to intentionally walk Dansby Swanson to get to Anderson, who would strikeout swinging on 1-2.

In the third, Anderson got the Astros’ 8-9-1 hitters, and took full advantage by recording another efficient inning. Martin Maldonado and Garcia both grounded out, and Altuve waved at strike three after working the count full to bring the Braves up to bat. Leading off the bottom of the third, Eddie Rosario got into another long battle with Garcia, but ended up winning this round by drawing a walk. Freeman followed that up with a solid base hit to move Rosario into scoring position, prompting Brent Strom to emerge from the bullpen. Garcia responded by ringing up Albies, but wasn’t able to get Austin Riley for a second time, surrendering an RBI double down the line to score Rosario.

It looked as though things might get out of hand early when Garcia then walked Soler, but he escaped by getting a foul pop from Adam Duvall and striking out d’Arnaud to keep the score at 1-0. Although still hitless, the Astros came to the plate with some confidence in the fourth after limiting the damage in the previous half-inning. Michael Brantley led off and worked the count full, but would go down swinging as Anderson continued to cruise. Alex Bregman would work a full count of his own and got decent wood on a payoff pitch, but it was put away by Adam Duvall for the second out.

Yordan Alvarez would draw a walk, and Carlos Correa got into yet another three ball count to make it four such plate appearances in a row for Anderson. He began to look even shakier when his payoff offering to Correa plunked him, but he was still yet to allow a hit and ultimately retired Kyle Tucker on a groundout to escape the threat. It was Garcia’s turn to face the bottom of the order in the bottom of the inning, and he’d end up retiring both the Braves’ 8 and 9 hitters on the first pitch of their respective plate appearances. With his pitch count creeping upward and the lineup about to turn over for a second time, Dusty Baker lifted him in favor of Blake Taylor for the pair of lefties atop the Braves’ order. Things got dicey when Rosario reached on a base hit, but Taylor bounced back for a strikeout of Freeman to end the inning.

The offensive struggles continued into the fifth for the Astros, as they would again go down in order. Yuli Gurriel flew out to right on a 1-1 offering, Maldonado hit a solid liner towards the shortstop’s typical home but it was snared by Albies, and then Marwin Gonzalez, pinch hitting for Taylor, struck out on three pitches to end the inning. As he has made a habit of doing thus far in the postseason, Dusty turned to Yimi Garcia for the middle innings. His outing got off to a great start, as he generated groundouts from Albies and Riley on a total of three pitches to start things off. He did get into a bit of trouble from there, walking Soler before allowing an awkward, shift-aided infield single to Duvall, but was able to induce an inning-ending groundout from d’Arnaud to end it.

Despite the ongoing no-hitter, Brian Snitker elected to pull Anderson rather than have him face the Astros’ lineup for a third time. In relief, he went with A.J. Minter, who continued Anderson’s pace by securing two quick outs against Altuve and Brantley. There was a hint of drama when he plunked Alex Bregman with a 1-1 offering to put a man aboard, but he got Yordan Alvarez in the left-on-left matchup to eliminate the “threat”. Baker would keep Yimi on the bump for the start of the home half, and the move paid off when he got Dansby Swanson and pinch hitter Ehire Adrianza before being lifted in favor of Brooks Raley with a pair of lefties again due up. Raley did his job in rather spectacular fashion, inducing a looper from Rosario into shallow center. Kyle Tucker charged in on the ball and it looked as though he’d need to play it on a hop, but he dove and made the catch just above the turf in what was probably the Astros’ best highlight of the night:

Rather than sticking with Minter for another frame, Snitker went to Luke Jackson for the 7th, who has been shaky at times this postseason. Carlos Correa, leading off, worked the count to 2-2 before grounding out to the right side, and Kyle Tucker became the second out when he hit a laser beam directly into Duvall’s glove. From there, Yuli Gurriel grounded out, and Jackson had himself a perfect frame. With more lefties due up, Raley remained in the game for Houston, and quickly retired Freeman and Albies before being lifted for Ryne Stanek. The flamethrower was able to get Austin Riley swinging in a four pitch appearance, turning things over to the bottom of the Astros’ order.

With the 8 and 9 spots due and Tyler Matzek coming out of the Atlanta pen, Baker sent out a pair of pinch hitters in the form of Aledmys Diaz and Jason Castro. Diaz, whose production and playing time have dwindled down the stretch, came up with the club’s first hit, a lazy fly into left that may well have been playable for Rosario but dropped at his feet. Castro worked the count a bit against Matzek, who didn’t look quite as precise as in his heroic appearance against LA, but ultimately waved underneath an elevated 99 MPH fastball for strike three. In the middle of his plate appearance, Diaz was lifted in favor of pinch runner Jose Siri. Jose Altuve didn’t give Siri much opportunity to impact the game in his plate appearance, as he’d foul out on the second pitch, but Siri’s presence was soon felt when he took off for a steal of second during Michael Brantley’s plate appearance. d’Arnaud attempted a throw and made a pretty good one, but Swanson was unable to handle it and the ball skated into center, allowing Siri to take third as well. This gave the Astros their best chance yet to tie the score, but Brantley fell victim to yet another popout and Houston remained without a run.

While leaving in Stanek may have been an option, Baker decided to go with Kendall Graveman for the eighth instead. Initially, Graveman looked very sharp, dotting two seams to induce a groundout from Soler and an ugly three pitch strikeout from Duvall. He looked to be on his way to a quick inning, but d’Arnaud cranked the first pitch of his at bat over the center field fence, and Atlanta had a key insurance run. Graveman recovered with a strikeout of Swanson to keep the game at arm’s length, and Will Smith came out of the home pen for the 9th.

There was a bit of excitement early in the frame, as Bregman poked a leadoff hit through the shift to bring the tying run to the plate with no out. Unfortunately, the threat quickly evaporated- Alvarez fouled out on the first pitch, Correa flew out the other way, and Kyle Tucker lifted a routine fly to center. Just nine pitches after Bregman reached, the game was over, and Atlanta had the series lead back at 2-1.

It was a winnable game, but the Astros offense was simply unable to get anything going against the deceptive fastballs of Anderson, Matzek, et al tonight. The club certainly can’t be thrilled to find themselves at a deficit at this point in the series, but it’s familiar ground for them- they did, after all, just flip a 2-1 lead on the Red Sox in the ALCS. With both teams missing their #1 starters the rest of the way, we should expect to see more offense tomorrow as the teams scrap to turn the reins back over to their game 1 arms. The Astros have announced that they’ll go with Zack Greinke to start game 4, while the Braves have yet to announce their starter- though Snitker did disclose that he’ll use an opener in the contest.

Despite the deficit, the Astros are currently just +145 to bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy at DraftKings Sportsbook— where you can find that line and plenty of other action to distract you from your World Series nerves— and could quickly wrest back home field advantage and favorite status in game 4. The start time will again be 7:09 CT, with FOX again handling the television coverage.