Written by By By Tanya Gustafson, CNN
An off day Wednesday in Atlanta allowed a pair of key players to rest Tuesday night, while George Springer still was holding on to hopes of returning in time for Game 3.
Instead of the Houston Astros needing a miracle to avoid an early exit from the National League Division Series, the Atlanta Braves struck early — and late — to win Game 1 of the best-of-five series at Turner Field.
Brandon McCarthy pitched six innings of relief, allowing just two hits and two walks. He struck out five to earn the win, before Arodys Vizcaino closed it out in the ninth.
The Braves are banking on Vizcaino to give them a clean bill of health after he underwent surgery to remove the staph infection from his right forearm. He threw off flat ground Tuesday, Braves manager Brian Snitker said, and is on track to start Game 3 of the series.
In the meantime, the Astros continued to lean on multiple arms as they try to get ahead in the series — and get their star second baseman back on the field for that Game 3.
But first, Astros manager A.J. Hinch had some tough news for Springer, who hasn’t played since leaving Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox on October 15.
Springer took ground balls Tuesday but sat out the entire workout. He was hitting off a tee, Hinch said, but was “out of options.”
Springer has been on the disabled list since then. The main reason was an injury to his right shoulder.
“We’re looking at a game off (Wednesday) in Atlanta. I think that’s got to be a reality,” Hinch said. “I would feel bad for George if he didn’t at least get to take some swings. He’s ready to go. But I know he’s doing everything he can to get back on the field.”
The Astros were also dealt a blow Tuesday when Brian McCann went down with a strained left oblique. He left the game in the seventh inning. The Astros do have Major League Baseball’s best record, but Hinch is well aware that his team was on the ropes on Wednesday night.
“We understand that this game is about pitching,” Hinch said. “This series, it’s not about hitting. It’s not about defense. We know that. But we’re certainly not a completely different team when George Springer is in the lineup. They have to pitch to Springer. We have to pitch to him. Our team has to throw to all of our talent.”
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