The Braves haven’t exactly played the cleanest baseball in the first two games of the World Series.
In Game 1, shortstop Dansby Swanson was assessed an error on a grounder that allowed Kyle Tucker to score in the fourth that could have been an inning-ending double play. But a huge 5-0 lead at the time of the error helped Atlanta absorb the run as the Braves went on to win the opening game 6-2.
That wasn’t the case in Game 2. The Astros benefitted from several Atlanta mistakes in the field that ultimately helped play a role in the Astros’ 7-2 win to even the series. Between a questionable defensive shift, a miscue in the outfield and infield, and two potentially missed double plays, the Braves gave Houston several chances to help the cause in Game 2.
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Shifting on Yuli Gurriel
It might not have shown up as an error in the box score, but the decision to shift on Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the second inning was a puzzling decision, given his hitting tendencies.
He came up to bat with Kyle Tucker on first and one away, and the Braves decided to shift him heavy to the left, with second baseman Ozzie Albies playing left of the second base bag. Look where Gurriel sent this base hit:
That’s probably just to the right of where Albies would normally play. Even if the Braves decide to lean him closer toward the bag in a more traditional double play depth, Albies fields that ball and it’s a double play to end the inning. Instead, Tucker moves up to third and both runners come around to score.
Gurriel is not a dead-pull hitter. In fact, he wouldn’t even be considered a pull-side hitter. According to Baseball Savant, Gurriel pulled only 33.3 percent of his batted balls in 2021, while he hit 40.9 percent up the middle and sent 25.7 percent the other way.
It wasn’t like he was a heavier pull hitter against southpaws, as Max Fried is. According to Fangraphs, Gurriel pulls 33.9 percent against lefties in 2021; 35.7 percent go up the middle and 30.4 percent are hit the other way in 2021.
Splits have drastically helped defenses record more outs against certain hitters. But Gurriel, the American League’s batting champion, is not a guy who should be shifted.
Eddie Rosario’s errant throw
That second inning was where the game really started to get away from the Braves.
After Gurriel’s hit, Jose Siri dropped in an infield single that scored Tucker and moved Gurriel up to second. Then, catcher Martin Maldonado singled to the left to score Gurriel. As Siri moved up to third, left fielder Eddie Rosario — seeing he had a shot at throwing Siri out — fired toward the base. The problem: No one was covering.
The speedy Siri was able to score off the misfire, while Maldonado moved up to second. The latter came in to score two batters later, when Michael Brantley singled through the right side.
There’s a few aspects to break down here. First, Rosario needed to make sure he was throwing that to an infielder, and not just the base. However, that no one was covering the base in that situation is also a mistake, as Rosario did have a chance to nab Siri trying to move up. It looked as if Swanson was trying to stand out in left field as the cutoff man, despite the grounder being fielded relatively shallow. Both he and third baseman Austin Riley started to head back to third as soon as the throw was fired off.
“There are so many baseball plays that don’t go like you want. I don’t know that the guys thought there would be a play at home and then he threw the ball to third and we just kinda got caught in between a little bit. It happens,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Snitker said, ideally, the ball would have been thrown to the cutoff man and handled from there.
“The simple play,” Snitker said. “Because when a ball’s hit like that, that’s where guys instinctually go.”
It was an all-around poorly executed play for the Braves. If Rosario doesn’t attempt the throw, it’s runners on the corners as opposed to another run home and a runner on second. Siri still likely comes home on the Altuve lineout or Brantley single, but Maldonado almost certainly doesn’t score and the Braves keep the game at least to a save situation.
Two near-double plays in the sixth
The Braves looked as if they might be able to get out of a tough jam in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fried, still in the game, walked Yordan Alvarez to lead off the inning and gave up a single to Carlos Correa to put a pair on with no one out, prompting the Braves to bring in Dylan Lee.
Lee immediately got a grounder off the bat of Tucker to Albies that looked like it could be a double play, but a slightly off-line throw by Albies, coupled with Tucker’s speed, forced Atlanta to settle for the forceout at second. That left runners on the corners with one away. No big deal — still a double play away.
Next up, Gurriel grounded one to Swanson, who flipped it over to Albies at second. With Gurriel’s speed, it felt all but certain to be a double play.
But Albies couldn’t hang on to the ball as Tucker was coming in. Both he and Gurriel were ruled safe, which also meant that Alvarez crossing the plate added to Houston’s lead. The Braves, arguing that Albies dropped the ball on the transfer, asked for a review. The ruling came back the same.
That sure looks like it might have been on the transfer. Even if the call had been reversed, Alvarez still scores to make it a 6-2 lead and pile on even more. Fortunately for Atlanta, no other runs crossed despite the bases becoming loaded later in the inning. Albies was scored an error on the play for a missed catch.
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