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Jorge Soler has left the building and gives Braves early lead over Astros in Game 6

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The 2021 World Series has returned to Texas after the Houston Astros overcame a four-run deficit to the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 and held off elimination. The Braves enter Game 6 on Tuesday leading 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.

The Astros’ season may have been saved by a Martin Maldonado “Little League bunt” with the bases loaded in the fifth against Braves reliever A.J. Minter. Maldonado got up on the plate, much like a Little Leaguer would to try and throw the pitcher off. It worked, with Maldonado drawing a game-tying walk.

The Astros, thanks to Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth to keep their season going.

The Braves turn to Max Fried in Game 6 as Atlanta tries to close it out and win its first World Series title since 1995. Fried has lost his last two postseason starts and given up 11 earned runs in 9.2 innings over those two games. Luis Garcia, who started and lost Game 3 for Houston, will start on short rest.

Here are the best moments and plays from Game 6:

Soler’s smash gives the Braves an early lead

Jorge Soler blasted one onto the train tracks and into the … Soler System with his third-inning homer that put Atlanta on top 3-0. Garcia started off Soler with a cutter in the dirt followed by another cutter that Soler swung through to even the count at 1-1. Garcia followed up with balls on a four-seamer and a cutter to make it 3-1 before throwing a strike to bring the count full. After Soler fouled off two pitches, an 80.5 mph slider and a 96 mph four-seamer, Soler blasted an 83.4 mph cutter on the eighth pitch of the at-bat onto the train tracks at Minute Maid Field, hitting the ball 109.6 mph for a distance of 446 feet, putting Atlanta in the driver’s seat of Game 6 with a 3-0 score.

Astros get celebrity support

The Astros are looking to force a Game 7, and they have support from some popular celebrities. NFL running back Adrian Peterson made his prediction for Games 6 and 7, and hip-hop artist Travis Scott was at Minute Maid Park to hype up the crowd pregame.

Advice for a new father

Before focusing on Game 6, Correa received some timely parenting advice. He and his wife are expecting their first child soon, and former MLB first baseman Kevin Millar offered him some tips on how to handle diaper duty on his show “Intentional Talk.” Millar has four children of his own, so he probably knows a thing or two about changing diapers.



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The Mets spent, the Yankees didn’t and more

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When MLB free agency began, as I was comparing notes with agents and executives, a popular discussion was how many players would sign big deals before the collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 1. The common opinion was that only a couple of guys would sign for $75 million or more — and some legitimately thought zero would. They also expected slower-than-usual overall volume.

All of that turned out to be … wildly wrong!

Now we’re in the midst of a lockout that will likely freeze the market for months, but before Dec. 1, we had tons of action to a degree that no one expected. Over the course of about three weeks, teams handed out 51 MLB deals with guaranteed money totaling $1.974 billion. If you include extensions occurring in the 2021 calendar year, another $1.655 billion was spent, and nearly $1.1 billion of that went to five players: Byron Buxton, Wander Franco, Jose Berrios, Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis Jr. Let’s go on a journey of the lessons learned from this incredibly entertaining and active first part of the offseason.

The Mets went hard.
The 2021 season didn’t go that well for the New York Mets, who ended the season in third place in the National League East with 77 wins and watched the Atlanta Braves win the World Series. But since the clock turned to November, things have turned around. Robinson Cano‘s season-long suspension ended, Jacob deGrom should be healthy by the time the season starts, and they added Max Scherzer ($130 million guaranteed), Starling Marte ($78 million), Mark Canha ($26.5 million) and Eduardo Escobar ($20 million) in free agency. With these additions, FanGraphs’ depth charts now have the Mets in a dead heat with the best teams in baseball. The Mets, a team that posted 34.6 WAR in 2021, are projected to post 48.0 in 2022 — behind (and just slightly) only the Dodgers and Yankees.

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Buck O’Neil joins Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, others in being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame

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Buck O’Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and three others in being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, a longtime television analyst after his playing days, also were chosen along with Bud Fowler by a pair of veterans committees.

Oliva and Kaat are the only living new members. Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of election.

Kaat pitched 25 seasons with a host of teams, including the Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games. He served as an analyst for the Yankees before moving on to the MLB Network.

The 16-member Early Days and Golden Days committees met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election announcement was originally scheduled to coincide with the big league winter meetings, which were nixed because of the MLB lockout.

The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the ballot, with voting results on Jan. 25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka ends 23-year career, surprised by Ichiro Suzuki in ceremony

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Daisuke Matsuzaka brought his 23-year professional baseball career to a close Saturday in a ceremony that included a surprise appearance by Ichiro Suzuki.

Matsuzaka, who faced only one batter this season for the Saitama Seibu Lions — issuing a walk in an October appearance — told fans at Seibu’s MetLife Dome that he was happy to leave the sport on his terms.

“I’m content that I was able to keep playing baseball until I could no longer throw normally in the end,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News.

A video from Suzuki was played, ending with the longtime Seattle Mariners outfielder surprising Matsuzaka on the field and giving him a flower bouquet.

“I hadn’t imagined this. It was crazy,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News. “At first I was able to hold up, and then the tears came and I was done for.

“I was surprised and just overjoyed that, at the end, Ichiro-san came to see me. I’m happy I was able to come so far.”

Suzuki and Matsuzaka faced each other both in Japan and Major League Baseball over their careers. They were also teammates for Japan’s World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009.

Matsuzaka, 41, was 56-43 with a 4.45 ERA in 132 career MLB starts with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets from 2007 to 2014. He won a World Series title in his rookie season with the Red Sox in 2017.

He started and ended his career with the Lions, pitching for them from 1999 to 2006 and the past two seasons. He also played for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chunichi Dragons after returning to Japan in 2015.

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