The Atlanta Braves clinched their first World Series title since 1995 after crushing the Houston Astros 7-0 at Minute Maid Park for a 4-2 series win.
Jorge Soler’s three-run homer in the third inning got Atlanta going, while further home runs by Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman kept them in control.
Braves starting pitcher Max Fried played his part as he kept the Astros quiet for six scoreless innings.
And the bullpen did its job as the visitors closed out a memorable win.
It is a fourth Fall Classic title for the franchise, who won in 1914 as the Boston Braves and 1957 as the Milwaukee Braves before moving to Atlanta in 1966.
Houston started with rookie Luis Garcia pitching on short rest, but it fell apart in the top of the third when Ozzie Albies singled and Eddie Rosario walked, setting the stage for Soler to launch an enormous hit over left centre field.
With Minute Maid Park’s retractable roof open, it disappeared over the railway tracks and out of the ballpark – also spelling the end of Garcia’s night.
But the Braves came alive again in the fifth with Swanson’s two-run homer to left field off reliever Cristian Javier, before Freeman’s RBI double off Great Britain international Blake Taylor made it 6-0, and Freeman added a solo shot of his own off Ryne Stanek in the seventh.
The Astros were making their third World Series appearance in five years, but their bats stayed cold all night as Jose Altuve’s two homers in games two and five were their only home runs all series.
Braves back in the big time
Since their last championship in 1995, the Braves have twice moved stadiums, had a change of ownership and been punished by Major League Baseball (MLB) for breaching rules on international signings.
But a man who has seen it all come and go is manager Brian Snitker, who has been with the Braves organisation since 1977 as player and coach, serving many years managing minor league teams before becoming the major league skipper in 2016.
After moving to Truist Park in 2017, Atlanta have won four successive National League (NL) East division titles under Snitker, with fans hoping for a new era of dominance similar to that which brought them 14 division wins between 1991 and 2005.
Success in 2021, achieved despite serious injury problems, has also been a fitting tribute to MLB and Braves legend Hank Aaron, formerly the all-time home run record holder, who died in January aged 86.
Change in the air?
While the Braves will hope this title is the first of many, they may have to face the future without first baseman Freeman, who now qualifies for free agency, as does Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.
And in an era when Washington’s NFL team have dropped their “Redskins” suffix, and MLB’s Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Guardians in 2022, the national publicity and prominence of a World Series win will undoubtedly increase the pressure on Atlanta to change a nickname which activists feel is offensive towards Native Americans.
Bigger changes may also be in the air, as MLB’s current collective bargaining agreement between the 30 teams and the players’ association expires on 1 December after four years.
Many reports have suggested that a move to a universal designated hitter is likely – as currently used in the American League, but not the NL where the pitchers bat.
But while fans roll their eyes as millionaire players argue with billionaire owners over financial matters, no-one expects the negotiations to be straightforward, or quick.