ATLANTA – The loudest noise when Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman stepped to the plate came from the crowd, not their bats.
Greeted by chants of “Cheater!” all night, the Astros stars went almost silent in Game 3 of the World Series.
Forget any worries that Houston’s lineup would be depleted without a designated hitter in the National League park. The greater concern for the Astros: When will their big hitters break loose?
Because the sight of Altuve flipping his bat after yet another strikeout clearly wasn’t part of this postseason plan.
Held hitless until the eighth inning, Houston finished with two mere singles Friday night in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves and fell behind two games to one.
“I think we didn’t swing it for one game. I think we flush it and move on to the next day and have a short memory. You have to in this game," Bregman said.
Through much of the lumber slumber, the most skill Houston showed with a bat was a bizarre yet heads-up bunt by Bregman.
Bregman was standing on the top step of the dugout in the sixth when Altuve grounded a foul that was about to hop into the bench. As some Astros began to duck out of the way, Bregman alertly bunted the eye-high ball harmlessly back onto the dirt.
As for the lack of hits that counted, maybe the weather was to blame — temperatures in the 40s, misty and windy, causing frosty breaths on the field.
More likely, it was the matchup — not a single Houston hitter in the lineup had ever faced Braves starter Ian Anderson.
“Like I told you a couple days ago, when you haven’t faced a guy, the nod goes to him for a while. He was effectively wild,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Good enough to shut down the top-hitting team in the majors this year.
Altuve, whose home run and double sparked a 7-2 win in Game 2, dropped to 2 for 13 in the series with six strikeouts. Correa is stuck at 1 for 10, and Bregman is mired at 1 for 9.
Yordan Alvarez, who pounded Boston pitching in becoming MVP of the AL Championship Series, is struggling at 1 for 8.
“Well, you count on those guys, but no one can hit all the time. You get spoiled by the fact that they’re hitting almost daily. Again, I keep referring to the law of averages,” Baker said. “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,’” he said.
Playing at Truist Park for the first time since their illegal sign-stealing scandal was revealed, the Astros and their struggles gave the crowd plenty to revel over.
Houston didn’t come close to a hit until pinch-hitter Aledmys Díaz blooped a leadoff single in the eighth on a ball that looked catchable. Bregman opened the ninth with a single to the right side through the shift on a ball that wasn’t stung, either.
“Obviously, they shut us down offensively,” Bregman said.
But as Baker said recently, he doesn't panic. No need to now.
“Invariably when you shut us down, usually our guys come back the next day and score a bunch. So I hope history repeats itself,” he said.
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