Rookie goes from watching World Series to starting Game 5

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ATLANTA (AP) — Tucker Davidson’s day started like a movie and ended in reality.

His journey from World Series viewer to pitcher resulted in neither stardom nor shame. Davidson looked like the inexperienced rookie he is, struggling to throw strikes.

Five days after he watched the Series opener from a hotel in the Atlanta suburbs, the 25-year-old Braves left-hander allowed four runs and got six outs in Game 5 against the Houston Astros on Sunday night.

Given a 4-0 lead by Adam Duvall’s first-inning grand slam, he gave up Alex Bregman’s RBI double and Martín Maldonado’s sacrifice fly in the second.

Davidson allowed a pair of unearned runs in the third after shortstop Dansby Swanson allowed Jose Altuve's leadoff grounder to bounced out of his glove for an error. Davidson walked Michael Brantley and was replaced by Jesse Chavez, who gave up Carlos Correa’s run-scoring double and Yuli Gurriel’s RBI groundout that tied the score 4-4.

Added to the roster after Charlie Morton broke a leg during Game 1 on Tuesday, Davidson followed Ian Anderson and Dylan Lee to become Atlanta’s third straight rookie starting pitcher — a Series first.

Braves manager Brian Snitker called Davidson about 11:30 a.m. and informed him of the surprise start. An hour later, the Texan arrived at Truist Park.

“He actually walked in and said, `Good morning,‘” Braves closer Will Smith recalled. “We’re like, `Tucker, it’s 3:15, so good afternoon.'”

Timing is everything.

This was just Davidson's second baseball game in 4 1/2 months.

This was his first major league appearance since June 15, just the sixth of his career.

Snitker had deliberately delayed divulging the news to Davidson, like he had for Lee a day earlier.

“I know their phones have been blowing up and would be and processing a lot,” the 66-year-old manager said.

Davidson’s response: “Let’s do it!”

He started with a slider to Altuve for a called strike and retired him on a popup. He reached 95.4 mph and got out of the first by getting Correa to ground into an inning-ending double play.

But he walked three of 11 batters and threw only 28 of 53 pitches for strikes. He allowed two hits, blowing a fastball by Astros pitcher Framber Valdez for his only strikeout.

When Snitker came to the mound to take the ball, third baseman Austin Riley and catcher Travis d’Arnaud walked over to give Davidson pats on the back.

A 19th-round draft pick in 2016 from Midland College in Texas, Davidson made his big league debut on Sept. 26 last year against Boston. He started this season at Triple-Gwinnett and made four big league starts over a month with a 3.60 ERA and no decisions. He went on the injured list with left forearm inflammation, and his only appearance since was in a Triple-A game Oct. 3.

Now, he had been tasked with trying to get the final win of the Braves’ quest for their first title since 1995.

“It’s any other day,” teammate Luke Jackson told Davidson shortly after arrival Wednesday. “You get to play a game for a living. It’s not the end of the world. Just go out there and enjoy it, soak it all in, because there’s people who play for 20 years and don’t get a chance to play the in World Series.”

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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press

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