HOUSTON — It had been nearly four years since the Houston Astros enjoyed the taste of victory in a World Series game at Minute Maid Park, an almost inexplicable stretch of five straight losses at home in the Fall Classic.
Home is supposed to be where sports teams flourish, where visiting teams often crumble beneath the noisy inhospitality of the local fans breathing hot venom on their necks. But the last time the Astros won at home in the World Series was Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, when Houston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on its way to its only championship.
But the streak finally ended on Wednesday as Houston beat Atlanta, 7-2, in Game 2 at Minute Maid Park, giving the Astros’ their first win at home in the World Series since Oct. 29, 2017.
The Astros also became the first team to win a World Series game in their home ballpark since the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 in 2018, meaning the traveling team had won 10 straight. (The 2020 World Series was held at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas, so that did not count).
Houston won 51 games at home during the regular season, the third most in the American League, and went 4-1 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, demonstrating that they can win big games at home. But something had been different about the World Series, lately.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” said Jose Altuve, Houston’s star second baseman who homered in the win. “Yeah, we lost four games here in ’19 in a row. We lost yesterday. But we came back tonight and won.”
It was no masterpiece, though. The game was ragged and became lopsided so quickly that much of the tension and interest was lost by the second inning. As with Game 1, it will not be recalled as a memorable World Series game.
Houston took advantage of sloppy play by Atlanta, and some luck, too, especially during a wacky second inning, in which eight batters came to the plate and four of them scored on a collection of lightly hit but well-placed balls that frustrated Atlanta starter Max Fried.
He did not pitch poorly, as evinced by the fact that Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker never had a relief pitcher warming up during the inning. He could see that the Astros were not bashing balls to the far reaches of the park. It was more that they kept finding holes in the defense, and Atlanta left fielder Eddie Rosario made a throwing error.
Fried surrendered five earned runs in five innings, but Snitker said he could not describe it as struggling.
“Balls that found holes, checked swings, we threw a ball away,” Snitker said. “It was just a weird inning.”
Fried set down the next 10 batters he faced, and was finally lifted in the sixth inning after he issued a walk to Yordan Alvarez and a single to Carlos Correa. Atlanta committed another error in the sixth, by Albies, as Houston extended its lead, 6-2. Altuve’s bases-empty home run in the seventh extended the lead, and it was his 22nd postseason home run. That tied him with Bernie Williams of the Yankees for second on the career list, behind Manny Ramirez’s 29 for Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers.
Jose Urquidy earned the win, allowing two runs and six hits in five innings, and became the first pitcher born in Mexico to win two World Series games. He also won Game 4 of the 2019 World Series in Washington.
“Somebody told me that I was the first Mexican to get two wins in a World Series,” he said. “I’m very proud of that.”
The Series now shifts to Atlanta for the next three games, beginning on Friday, which is why Altuve called Game 2 a “must-win” affair. Atlanta has won nine straight postseason games at home. And the last 12 teams that have fallen behind, two games to none, in the World Series, all went on to lose the series.
But even before Game 2 started, Baker was not inclined to panic, not with this team. Houston had fallen behind, two games to one, to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and came back to win the next three games.
Baker said on Tuesday that after that Game 3 in Boston, he received text messages of support from friends, some tinged with desperation, as if the Astros faced an insurmountable deficit.
“It’s like, dude, this is a seven-game series,” Baker said of his response to those messages. “It ain’t no one-game series. If it was a one-game series, I mean, you can save all of us sleepless nights, and just go home now.”
But the Astros already were at home when he said it, and for the first time in six World Series tries, they actually won there.