Falling stars: Astros big hitters stuck in World Series skid

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ATLANTA (AP) — The loudest noise when Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman stepped to the plate came from the fans, not their bats.

Greeted by chants of “Cheater!” all night, the Astros stars went almost silent in Game 3 of the World Series.

Forget any worries that Houston’s lineup would be depleted without a designated hitter in the National League park. The greater concern for the Astros: When will their big hitters break loose?

It certainly didn’t happen Friday night when the Astros were held hitless until the eighth inning, finishing with two mere singles in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves and falling behind two games to one.

“I think we didn’t swing it for one game. I think we flush it and move on to the next day and have a short memory. You have to in this game," Bregman said.

Maybe the weather was to blame — temperatures in the 40s, misty and windy, causing frosty breaths on the field.

More likely, it was the matchup — not a single Houston hitter in the lineup had ever faced Braves starter Ian Anderson.

“Like I told you a couple days ago, when you haven’t faced a guy, the nod goes to him for a while. He was effectively wild,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Whatever, the sight of Altuve flipping his bat after yet another strikeout wasn’t part of this postseason plan.

Altuve, whose home run and double sparked a 7-2 win in Game 2, dropped to 2 for 13 in the series with six strikeouts. Correa is stuck at 1 for 10, and Bregman is mired at 1 for 9.

Yordan Alvarez, who pounded Red Sox pitching in becoming MVP of the AL Championship Series, is struggling at 1 for 8.

“Well, you count on those guys, but no one can hit all the time. You get spoiled by the fact that they’re hitting almost daily. Again, I keep referring to the law of averages,” Baker said. “The more those guys get out, the more they’re one at-bat away from a hot streak. That’s how hitters think.”

“It’s like, ‘OK, if I’m not hitting today or tomorrow, then somebody’s in trouble in the near future, the very near future,’” he said.

Playing at Truist Park for the first time since their illegal sign-stealing scandal was revealed, the Astros and their struggles gave the crowd plenty to revel over.

Houston didn’t come close to a hit until pinch-hitter Aledmys Díaz blooped a leadoff single in the eighth on a ball that looked catchable. Bregman opened the ninth with a single to the right side through the shift on a ball that wasn’t stung, either.

As Baker said recently, he doesn't panic. No need to now.

“Invariably when you shut us down, usually our guys come back the next day and score a bunch. So I hope history repeats itself,” he said.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Ben Walker, The Associated Press

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