ATLANTA -- The way manager Dusty Baker sees it, the Astros' high-octane offense is due to break out and score some runs in bunches. If it doesn't, Houston's quest to win a second World Series title in the past five seasons could be in peril.
The Astros had no answer for Braves starter Ian Anderson or the four relievers that followed him in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night at Truist Park, a 2-0 loss that dropped them in a 2-1 hole in the Series. Houston managed only two singles against Atlanta, none of which came in the first seven innings as the Braves flirted with a rare postseason no-hitter.
"When you haven't faced a guy, the nod goes to him for a while," Baker said of Anderson. "He was effectively wild. I mean, he had a 1-to-1 ratio, balls to strikes, and our guys never could zero in on the strikes. It's no secret they've got a good bullpen. So, we didn't center too many balls tonight. We threatened a couple times and didn't get the two-out RBI hits we'd gotten before, and it was kind of an uneventful night for us.
"But invariably when you shut us down, usually our guys come back the next day and score a bunch. So, I hope history repeats itself."
For the record, the Astros were shut out seven times in the regular season and responded with mixed results. They scored nine, eight, six, four and three runs following games in which they were shut out (they were also shut out on consecutive days twice). Houston was shut out on two or fewer hits for only the third time this year.
Through three games of the Fall Classic, the Astros' offense -- which led the Major Leagues in runs scored in the regular season -- has managed only nine runs. As a team, it's slashing .198/.278/.292 with 29 strikeouts. Houston is 4-for-23 with runners in scoring position in the Series.
"I think we didn't swing it for one game," said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, whose ninth-inning single was his first hit of this World Series. "I think we flush it and move on to the next day and have a short memory. You have to in this game. You give all the credit to them tonight. They pitched their tail off."
Anderson, who had never faced the Astros before in his brief career, threw five no-hit innings, allowing three walks and hitting one batter. He threw 39 strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 11 of 18 hitters, and 37 balls.
"He's definitely difficult to square up," Bregman said. "He's had an amazing postseason career. He has three pitches that are good pitches, and he throws them on the edges. You have to be selective, but we didn't do a good enough job of squaring up the ones that we could have tonight."
The Astros managed to put only one runner into scoring position until the eighth, when Aledmys Díaz began the frame with a bloop pinch-hit single to left that was Houston's first hit of the game. Jose Siri pinch-ran for Díaz and stole second with two outs, going to third on a throwing error. It didn't matter. Brantley popped out to end the inning.
Bregman led off the ninth with a single against closer Will Smith, but he was stranded at first to end the game. The Astros only had two at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"They have a really good pitching staff all the way around," Bregman said. "So, no matter who's coming in, you've got to stay focused and locked in."
The Astros have gotten a good look at Atlanta's relief corps over the first three games of the Fall Classic, which could play into their hands in Games 4 and 5. The Braves are expected to have "bullpen games" on Saturday and Sunday, but Houston's key bats must find a way to get going.
"Well, you count on those guys, but no one can hit all the time," Baker said. "You get spoiled by the fact that they're hitting almost daily. Again, I keep referring to the law of averages. The more those guys get out, the more they're one at-bat away from a hot streak. That's how hitters think. It's like, 'OK, if I'm not hitting today or tomorrow, then somebody's in trouble in the near future, the very near future.'"