HOUSTON — The legend of Jorge Soler’s titanic home run in the third inning of Game 6 of the 2021 World Series will never die.
Those who were in the stadium will tell tales about how the baseball exited the ballpark — actually left the stadium, not just cleared the fence — in the blink of an eye. They will tell what that home run meant in that moment, how it wasn’t a “normal” three-run home run but an emphatic statement of might and power, staking a claim to a game the Braves believed was theirs for the taking.
Those who speak of the legend of Soler’s power will not cite the estimated distance given by StatCast, unless the sentence goes something like this: “There is no way that home run went only 446 feet. Maybe 446 yards, tho.”
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And they will talk about the sound of the bat hitting the baseball.
“I was going over scouting reports,” Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, soaked with champagne and beer, told Sporting News after the game. “I heard the loud crack of the bat, I looked up and that thing went way out of the stadium.”
It’s a good thing d’Arnaud looked up quickly, because it didn’t take long for the baseball to clear the stadium — on a perfect weather night to have Minute Maid Park’s roof open.
“That was a majestic home run. Man. That got us going. That got us fired up,” Adam Duvall told TSN. “That was a statement. To be up three runs early in the game, that’s big in a game like this. It’s about momentum and about carrying that throughout the game.”
The Braves did just that. Max Fried, stepped on accidentally by Michael Brantley in the first inning when he tried to cover first base, stomped out a little more of Houston’s hope with every batter he mowed down in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“That’s something he can do at any moment,” Fried said. “To be able to do that and give us a three-run cushion, I just knew that I had to keep going and attack guys, not give away any free baserunners. I knew the solo home run wasn’t going to beat me, so just stay on the attack and not let any big innings happen.”
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Soler hit a 3-2 pitch from Astros starter Luis Garcia, who was working on short rest but had been sharp the first two innings. Ozzie Albies singled to lead off the third, and after Garcia retired the next two batters, he walked Eddie Rosario. That brought up Soler.
He fouled off two full-count pitches, ripping each of their just foul down the third-base line. The eighth pitch of the at-bat was just where Soler wanted it.
“I just kept battling it out, I’d seen his stuff or whatever, so I was sitting on the off-speed,” he said after the game through an interpreter. “I was thinking to myself, if he throws me an off-speed pitch, I can connect and drive the ball. If he throws me a fastball, I’m just going to try to stay alive during this at-bat. I got to 3-2, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen [as] the first-inning at-bat where I struck out on the off-speed pitch. So I was just kind of getting prepared for that.”
Atlanta sports fans know better than to ever assume victory is secure, but between Soler’s homer and Fried’s workmanlike dissection of the Houston lineup, the result of the game — and the Series — felt all but decided long before the game was official. The Braves added three more runs in the fifth; two on a Dansby Swanson home run and one on an RBI double from Freddie Freeman, and one more in the seventh, a solo shot by Freeman.
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Soler’s titanic blast was also a reminder of Houston’s almost complete lack of power in the World Series, a nod to the brilliance of the execution of Atlanta’s pitchers, the genius of the game plan and the masterful way d’Arnaud, who caught every inning of the series, worked with the cavalcade of pitchers, some with very, very limited experience.
Think about this: The third-inning home run was Soler’s third homer of the World Series. The Astros hit two, total, as a team, both by Jose Altuve. The Astros hit nine in six games against Boston pitching in the ALCS and four in four games against the White Sox in the ALDS.
This is a team with a powerful, deep lineup. The Astros hit at least two home runs in a game 62 times during the 2021 regular season. They hit at least three home runs in a game 29 times. They hit at least four home runs in a game 10 times this year.
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Again, they hit two in six World Series games. It almost feels impossible, doesn’t it?
The Astros have been in the postseason every year since 2017. Here’s how many times they hit at least two homers in a playoff game, by year . . .
2017: 6 times
2018: 4 times
2019: 8 times
2020: 7 times
2021: 3 times
It wasn’t just Soler’s three homers that highlighted the difference in the series. Freeman matched Houston with two homers. So did Swanson, d’Arnaud and Duvall. In total, five Atlanta hitters hit at least as many home runs as Houston did as a team.
Just incredible. But so was pretty much everything about Atlanta’s unexpected run to the 2021 World Series title. October baseball is just the very best.
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