Jorge Soler’s walk-off home run gives Braves game-winning hit in World Series opener

Jorge Soler hit a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Atlanta Braves rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night in Game 1 of…

Jorge Soler’s walk-off home run gives Braves game-winning hit in World Series opener

Jorge Soler hit a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Atlanta Braves rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night in Game 1 of the World Series.

Alcy Valdez (2-4) gave up the drive, but he took the loss for a bullpen that was terrible early and late. The Rays had two runners aboard in the ninth, but Brian McCann, who had tied the game in the eighth, grounded out to end the game.

Soler hit a high flyball that just cleared the left-field wall, snapping the tie and sending the sold-out crowd at Turner Field into a frenzy. Houston had gone ahead 4-3 in the seventh on two doubles and two singles off reliever Eric O’Flaherty.

Steve Cishek escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth with strikeouts of Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa to earn his second save in a tie game.

With his bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, Brian McCann drew a four-pitch walk off Hector Rondon (0-1) to start the ninth. Sidelined by a hamstring injury since April 28, McCann came in as a pinch-hitter but was caught stealing. John Sansone pinch-ran, and Joaquin Benoit replaced Rondon.

Craig Kimbrel (1-0) retired the side in order for the win.

Jonny Venters, Atlanta’s bullpen ace last season, blew two save chances in a series of close games, and Eric O’Flaherty did not pitch well at all. He didn’t retire a batter, allowing three hits and two runs in 1¾ innings.

The loss started a rough stretch for Houston’s normally reliable bullpen, which allowed 24 earned runs in 18 innings over the last 10 games. That’s a sum of 51 runs.

The Astros had a chance to steal a Game 1 lead in the third, but right fielder Jason Heyward, who replaced the hurt Greinke, made a leaping catch at the wall against Carlos Pena, sending Ezequiel Carrera home and tying the game at 3.

The visitors went ahead 3-2 in the fifth. C.J. Cron scored from third when shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ throw back to first was high, and Polanco followed with a triple that Gattis couldn’t track down deep in left.

Gattis took off for home and easily beat Smith’s throw, but Polanco wound up at third. Justin Maxwell connected for his second home run of the game, making it 4-2.

Jose Altuve started things off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a sacrifice by Maxwell. Gattis worked a four-pitch walk, loading the bases, and he scored from third on a single by Craig Gentry, who left as a pinch-runner for Maxwell in the third inning.

The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the fourth off rookie Brian Matusz. Smith’s line drive glanced off the glove of a diving Polanco in right field and fell for a double, and scored a run on a sacrifice fly by Chipper Jones.

Matusz hadn’t allowed a run since Game 1 of the Division Series against the Yankees. The 24-year-old didn’t get the scoreline he deserved, but his performance got the Astros back into the game. The former Orioles farmhand held the Braves to two hits over four innings before losing a spot in the starting rotation. He had allowed just one run in 19⅓ innings over his last five starts.

Cecil Cooper had Matusz going to face his old team, the one from which he started last season in what will undoubtedly be his final start before retiring.

But like other Texan pitchers in playoff series against the Braves, Matusz had to deal with a dangerous lineup that delivered when the team was struggling to score runs. The team was averaging 2.4 runs in Matusz’s five starts this season.

Cecil Cooper had Matusz going to face his old team, the one from which he started last season in what will undoubtedly be his final start before retiring. But like other Texan pitchers in playoff series against the Braves, Matusz had to deal with a dangerous lineup that delivered when the team was struggling to score runs. The team was averaging 2.4 runs in Matusz’s five starts this season.

Matusz had a 1.77 ERA and earned two wins in four career starts against the Braves, striking out 11 in 18⅓ innings.

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