Maldonado gives Astros surprise offensive boost with 3 RBIs

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ATLANTA (AP) — Martín Maldonado, a veteran catcher known for his defense, provided a surprise contribution at the plate to help the Houston Astros stay alive in the World Series.

Maldonado, Houston's No. 8 hitter, drove in three runs in the Astros' 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5.

To describe Maldonado’s big game as unexpected would be an understatement. He had never driven in more than one run in any of his previous 41 career postseason games. He had hit only .157 in the postseason.

Maldonado had only one hit Sunday night but played a key role in the Astros' offensive resurgence. Houston carried a .206 batting average for the World Series before breaking out with 12 hits. The Astros scored a combined two runs in losing Games 3 and 4.

Maldonado's three RBIs led the Astros and helped push the series back to Houston. The Braves lead the series, 3-2.

Maldonado, 35, hit only .172 in the regular season and is a career .212 hitter in 11 seasons with Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City, Chicago Cubs and two stints with Houston.

Maldonado's first contribution came in the second inning. His fly ball to deep center field drove in Kyle Tucker from third base. He drew a bases-loaded walk from A.J. Minter to drive in another run in the fifth.

Finally, Maldonado's two-out single to left field off Drew Smyly in the seventh gave Houston an 8-5 lead.

He is the first player in history to drive in runs with a hit, walk and sacrifice fly in a postseason game.

The Astros have success when Maldonado produces at the plate. In his four seasons with the team, Houston is 16-4 when he drives in two or more runs.

Maldonado is expected to carry the full load at catcher after backup Jason Castro was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list before Game 4 on Saturday.

Castro was replaced by Garrett Stubbs. Unlike a player replaced due to injury, Castro is eligible to return if he is cleared.

Castro was 0 for 2 in Game 1 against Atlanta and 0 for 1 in Game 2.

Due to his defensive strength, Maldonado was starting even before the loss of Castro. Maldonado was named a Gold Glove finalist on Thursday. He led the American League by throwing out 18 of 47 runners attempting to steal a base.

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

Charles Odum, The Associated Press

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