Maldonado came out of the pothole at the key hour

ATLANTA – Puerto Rican Martín Maldonado is routinely praised for his work behind the plate, but with the Astros’ season hanging by a thread Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series, the catcher hit the stick to keep live the hopes of winning the ring for Houston.

Maldonado went 3-for-1 with a walk, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs, contributing from the bottom of the lineup as the Astros forced a Game 6 with the 9-5 win over Braves at Truist Park.

“’Maldy’ is someone we obviously talk about a lot about how good he is at calling pitches. His defense is tremendous and all that, but he is a man who also comes every day to work on his hitting in the box, ”said Carlos Correa, a shortstop for the Astros, from Puerto Rico.

“Even when things don’t go well, he is there every day working. He cares about this team. They care about their shifts. He wants to win the game. He wants to hit home runs. He likes to go out hitting and producing. He works hard and at some point that is going to give you results. I always trust him ”.

Maldonado, who was sitting to Correa’s left at the postgame press conference, stared at his compatriot after hearing him say all those things.

“Now you’re going to make me cry,” Maldonado told him before bumping his fists with Correa.

The Astros received input from multiple players in Game 5 to move closer to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, but none more important than Maldonado. He drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the second inning, tied the game with a key walk with the bases loaded in the fifth and brought up another streak in the seventh with an RBI single.

“This means a lot,” Maldonado said. “Every time you have the opportunity to help the team win in some way, it is always something very big.”

Maldonado became just the fifth catcher in World Series history to drive in three or more runs in a game in which his team could be eliminated and the first to do so since Steve Yeager brought in five for the Dodgers in the Game. 5 of the Autumn Classic of 1977.

After his first 14 games this postseason, Maldonado had a .098 / .159 / .098 offensive line with two RBIs, one walk and 14 strikeouts. He had just four hits in 41 at-bats. His batting average was the worst of any player with at least 20 at-bats in these playoffs.

How unproductive had Maldonado been? In Game 4, manager Dusty Baker decided to put his starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, ahead of Maldonado in the lineup, dropping his catcher to ninth place in the order.

“The fact that he was struggling and not looking at the board,” Baker said of what he liked about Maldonado’s approach, “because you can feel bad when it’s your turn to hit and you’re not producing.”

Maldonado’s most important turn was the fifth. Correa started the inning with a hit off AJ Minter. Yuli Gurriel of Cuba gave another single with one out and then Kyle Tucker moved the runners with a ground ball to first. The Braves then decided to intentionally walk Alex Bregman to pitch to Maldonado, whose average at the time was .095.

“I was expecting that,” Maldonado acknowledged. “I always prepare myself and I was ready for a boy who has been very difficult throughout the series and who has been pitching very well. I wasn’t going to swing until he struck me. I had to try to be patient. “

Minter missed with his first two shipments before Maldonado missed a fastball for the first strike. The southpaw carefully pitched Maldonado despite the lack of production from the carate, throwing two more balls at him to force the tying run with a walk.

“I knew he was trying to walk,” Minter explained. “I think I tried to target where I wanted to put the ball, instead of just throwing my pitch. That is obviously something I would do differently. “

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Maldonado became just the second player in postseason history to walk a bases loaded with a batting average below .100 (minimum 25 trips to the plate), joining Austin Jackson of the Tigers in Game 4 of the 2013 American League Championship Series.

Marwin Gonzalez of Venezuela kept the party going for Houston with a two-run RBI single that put them up 7-5, a lead they would not lose again.

With more than half the game to go, Baker said he never thought of pinch-hitting for Maldonado despite his recent problems with the stick.

“Around the fifth, sixth, seventh inning, that’s when you have to make a decision about what you’re going to do, because time is running out, but there’s still a game left,” Baker said. “I was trying to get ‘Maldy’ to hit a hit, to later bring in Marwin González, and then the top of the order came with (José) Altuve. And well, it worked. Many things worked today ”.


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Maldonado came out of the pothole at the key hour