Deadline additions spark Braves to G1 win
Duvall, Soler, Rosario shine in World Series opener
ATLANTA -- As the Braves find themselves three victories away from winning the World Series, there’s reason to question how far they might have progressed had they not made those additional phone calls to land both Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler before the Trade Deadline.
Soler provided an immediate spark with a historic homer and Duvall contributed more early power as the Braves claimed a 6-2 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
As for Eddie Rosario, he just continued to produce one of the more impressive postseasons in Braves franchise history. His 11-game postseason hit streak is the third-longest in Braves history, trailing only Marquis Grissom (15 games,1995-96) and Mark Lemke (13 games in 1996).
“They complete our team, those guys,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They’ve been big for us since they got here and they are continuing to be every day.”
Soler became the first player to homer in the first plate appearance of any of the 117 World Series that have been played. Duvall drilled a two-run homer in the third and Rosario capped yet another two-hit performance with a timely outfield assist. The night wasn’t all good as Charlie Morton was lost for the season with a fractured right fibula suffered in the second inning.
But overcoming adversity is nothing new for the Braves, who responded to losing both Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuña Jr. by reconstructing their outfield via the July trade acquisitions of Joc Pederson, Duvall, Rosario and Soler.
Those four outfielders have accounted for nine of the 14 home runs the Braves have hit this postseason.
“If you’ve been watching us, we’ve just been answering the bell and overcoming adversity all year,” Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. “We’re just going to treat it the same way.”
Minter may have provided the most valuable contribution as he allowed one run over 2 2/3 innings after Morton exited with one out in the third. But it was impossible to overlook the contributions of the guys president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos diligently fought to acquire during the final hours and minutes before the Trade Deadline.
Soler’s loud introduction
Soler spent most of the National League Championship Series on the COVID-19 injured list. So there was reason to wonder if he would return to the leadoff spot while serving as the designated hitter in Game 1. Rosario had been very effective in the role, but against left-hander Framber Valdez, Soler was put at the top of Atlanta’s lineup.
Six days after limiting the Red Sox to three hits over eight innings in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, Valdez surrendered Soler’s leadoff homer on just the game’s third pitch.
Four players -- Chris Taylor (2017 Dodgers), Alcides Escobar (2015 Royals), Dustin Pedroia (2007 Red Sox) and Don Buford (1969 Orioles) -- hit leadoff homers in Game 1 of a World Series. But Soler became the first to do so in the top of the first inning.
“Me and my family were both very happy,” Soler said through a translator. “To be honest, I didn't know that was a thing until I was told a little later on in the game.”
Anthopoulos spent nearly a week pursuing Soler and was repeatedly told the Royals wouldn’t be trading him. But 30 minutes before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, assistant general manager Jason Paré suggested one more call be made to the Royals.
Within the next 30 minutes, the Braves sent Minor League pitcher Kasey Kalich to Kansas City in exchange for a guy who tallied 14 homers and produced an .882 OPS for them over the regular season’s final 55 games.
“I'm extremely grateful to the organization, to the fans who have definitely supported us,” Soler said. “I'm very happy to be here.”
Late night call
When Duvall hit his two-run homer off Valdez to give the Braves a 5-0 lead in the third, he conjured memories of how valuable he was during the season’s final two months. He tallied 16 homers and produced an .800 OPS in the 55 games he played after Atlanta acquired him.
The Braves advanced to the 2020 NLCS with Duvall’s assistance, but opted to non-tender him last winter. The veteran outfielder signed with the Marlins, who spent the weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline making it clear they wouldn’t trade him within the division.
But something changed when Anthopoulos called Marlins GM Kim Ng as he drove home from Truist Park after midnight on July 30. Approximately 12 hours later, they struck the deal that brought Duvall to Atlanta in exchange for Alex Jackson, a catcher who had no future with the Braves.
Taking a shot
Considering Rosario hit 32 homers for the 2019 Twins, Atlanta wasn't taking a big gamble when they acquired him from Cleveland in exchange for Pablo Sandoval. It would have eventually released Sandoval, who was immediately released by Cleveland in the cost-savings deal.
Rosario won NLCS MVP honors and extended his success by tallying a single and double in Tuesday’s victory. He also made an accurate throw that denied Yuli Gurriel’s attempt to record a double with the long drive he hit off the left-field wall in the eighth inning.
Rosario is 15-for-26 over his past six games going back to Game 2 of the NLCS. The only other five players to record 15-plus hits in any six-game span during the postseason are Kiké Hernández (2021 Red Sox), Tim Anderson (2020-21 White Sox), David Ortiz (2004 Red Sox), Hideki Matsui (2004 Yankees) and Will Clark (1989 Giants).
Though the Braves won the opening battle, their attempt to win the war will be more challenging as they play the remainder of the World Series without Morton, who fractured his right fibula when he was hit by a Gurriel comebacker in the second inning.
Replacing Morton will not be easy, but the Braves will attempt to compensate for his absence with the help of an offense that was rebuilt by some phone calls Anthopoulos made over the final 16 hours before the July 30 Trade Deadline.