ATLANTA (AP) — Marwin Gonzalez was nearly down and out, just like the Houston Astros.
Dusty Baker had faith, and the last player put on the World Series roster came through with a big hit — just like he did for the Astros four years ago.
Gonzalez's pinch single off A.J. Minter broke a fifth-inning tie, leading the comeback from a four-run deficit to a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night that cut Houston's Series deficit to 3-2.
“Team chemistry is great when he’s around,” Carlos Correa said. “We know when the moments are big, it’s not going to be too big for him.”
Houston lost the 2017 Series opener and trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in Game 2 when Gonzalez homered on an 0-2 pitch from All-Star closer Kenley Jansen leading off the ninth. Houston won in 11 innings and went on to win in seven games for its first title.
That hit was right-handed. This one was from the left side for the versatile, 31-year-old infielder and outfielder, who even made his first big league mound appearance to finish a Red Sox loss in June.
Adam Duvall's first-inning grand slam put the Braves ahead, and the Astros trailed 5-4 in the fifth when Minter forced the tying run with a bases-loaded walk to Martín Maldonado.
With the pitcher's spot up, Baker called on Gonzalez, who was released by Boston with a .202 average and signed by the Astros on Aug. 27.
“I thought that he was fixable,” Baker said. “Being of Latin American descent, most Latin Americans are not crazy about cold weather. You go to Minnesota in April and May and you go to Boston in April and May and September, those places aren’t conducive for most people from warm-weather climates.”
Gonzalez spent three games in the minors, was brought up and hit .176 in 14 games with eight RBIs over the season's last month. He became a late addition to the Series roster last week in place of Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into a wall during Game 4 of the Division Series.
“I was going to the cage and some of the days hitting BP and hitting balls with my team, too," Gonzalez said. “I was doing my job in the clubhouse. cheering for my teammates.”
Gonzalez made his big league debut with the Astros in 2012, the second of the team's three straight 100-loss seasons.
“That’s one thing that I don’t wish that to any player,” he said. “It’s not that you don’t want to play, but you don’t even want to show up.”
Gonzalez stayed seven years, watching the franchise turn into among baseball's best.
He had not played since the final game of the regular season on Oct. 3 before striking out in Game 3 and flying out in Game 4, also as a pinch hitter.
After a visit to the mound by pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Gonzalez swung at a first-pitch cutter and hit a 71 mph flare. The ball landed just 235 feet from plate, a clear hit off the bat, enabling Yuli Gurriel to score from third and Alex Bregman from second.
“It was poetic," Correa said. "I remember that homer he hit in 2017, picked us up big time. And today, man, that was a huge hit right there.”
The ball landed so softly that Eddie Rosario barehanded it after the second hop and threw to second. Minter shook his head.
Gonzalez pounded his chest after rounding first.
“It feels amazing. This is part of my family,” he said. “The guys welcomed me like I never left.”
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