HOUSTON — After the Atlanta Braves won Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, Dusty Baker did not betray concern; he dismissed it. He insisted that the balls simply hadn’t bounced his Houston Astros’ way. He insisted they would do so in Game 2.

Of course, all managers say things like that after losses. They blame the breaks because they can’t blame players who are expending so much effort. They blame luck because this game rarely offers easy explanations. But Baker, who played his first postseason game 45 years ago and has seen this all a time or two, happened to be right.

The Astros didn’t exactly bludgeon the Braves into submission in their 7-2 win Wednesday night in Game 2, at least not early on. Instead, they battered them with an endless barrage of bouncing balls and took advantage of defensive mistakes the Braves don’t usually make to tie the series, which heads back to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday night.

The powerful Astros broke out in the second inning with an outburst resulting almost entirely from perfectly placed groundballs — the kind of groundballs that bounce the Astros’ way more often than not, the kind good-hitting teams seem to hit more often than others.

“The difference between this group and some other groups I’ve had is the fact that they are always looking for something good to happen,” said Baker, explaining that in other places he had been — such as, for example, Washington — a history of playoff failure left teams expecting the worst.

Kyle Tucker hit a clean single up the middle with one out to start the process. Then Yuli Gurriel poked a ball through the shifted Atlanta infield, taking advantage of a wide-open right side the Braves left that way by choice, leaving Braves starter Max Fried clenching his fist in silent frustration and moving Tucker to third.

“It’s baseball. Sometimes the ball gets hit and goes right to a guy. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it finds a hole,” Fried said. “He did a really good job of seeing where we were positioned and staying inside it and just being able to beat it. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.”

A batter later, Jose Siri hit a chopper to third base, too slow for the Braves to get him at first, just slow enough for Tucker to score. Altuve told Siri that hit — a broken-bat single, followed by a charge from first to third when Martín Maldonado hit a bouncing ball to the left side of the infield, was one of the biggest plays of the game. Maldonado’s ball was just out of the reach of Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley, both of whom ended up a few yards away from third base as the ball bounced into left.

October star Eddie Rosario picked the ball up there and threw it to third, but no one was standing there. As the ball bounced away, Siri scored, screaming, “Vamos, vamos!” as he crossed the plate — a sign that as reliable as these Astros are when it comes to scoring runs, they are still as excited to be here. Another run scored just seconds later on Michael Brantley’s single, completing an inning that might have ended with one run or even none had a fielder or two been elsewhere or a ball bounced a foot either way but instead ended with a 5-1 Houston lead.

Teams cannot usually afford to yield extra outs or easy bases in Major League Baseball. They can almost never afford to yield them in the postseason. But in the World Series, against a lineup so deep that the winner of the American League batting title is hitting seventh, extra outs and easy bases can amount to fatal blows.

“It happened fast,” Baker said. “It was like a feeding frenzy, and everybody wants to get in on it.”

Besides, cliched as the notion may be, Baker actually had reason to expect the bounces would start going his team’s way: The Astros generate more bounces than most teams, and they have all season.

Houston led the majors in contact percentage, making contact on 80 percent of its swings in 2021. All 29 other teams were bunched within three percentage points — the differences are generally not vast.

But the Astros were almost three full percentage points ahead of the second-place team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Astros also owned the lowest strikeout percentage in the majors at 19.4 percent. Of the past four teams to win the World Series, none ranked lower than fifth in that category.

So it was that the Braves found themselves trailing the Astros 5-1 by the end of the second inning. When they looked up, Fried had thrown 43 pitches in two innings.

“I’m having a hard time convincing myself [Fried] struggled,” Braves Manager Brian Snitker said. “ … It wasn’t like he was getting banged around. Balls that found holes. Checked swings. We threw a ball away. That was just a weird inning.”

Neither side was particularly well positioned to handle a short start because both sides had to use their bullpens after short starts Tuesday. Neither side had to deal with one, at least relatively speaking. José Urquidy held Atlanta down until the fifth when Freddie Freeman’s two-out single gave the Braves a second run. Fried settled down after that tough-luck second, retiring 10 straight Astros from the second inning through the fifth, striking out five of them.

In fact, the lefty outlasted his Astros counterpart, Urquidy, who allowed two runs on six hits in a performance that should allow the Astros’ pitching staff to breathe somewhat heading into the travel day Thursday. Fried pitched into the sixth but did not record an out, departing with two on but having ensured the Atlanta bullpen wouldn’t carry as heavy a load as it did in Game 1.

But the Astros kept adding, aided by an error by Ozzie Albies in the sixth. The Astros didn’t even get an extra-base hit until the seventh, when Altuve hit a no-doubter to left field for his 22nd career postseason homer, tied for second all-time with former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams. Their second extra-base hit came a batter later when Brantley doubled to right-center.

The trouble with the Astros is they do not merely put the ball in play: They finished third in the majors in slugging percentage, too. And they won a World Series game by five runs Wednesday night without needing much slugging at all.

— Chelsea Janes

This story has been updated. Highlights and analysis, by Scott Allen and Adam Kilgore in Washington, are below.

Read more on baseball:

11:11 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: The Braves directed some anger toward Ron Kulpa in the eighth inning, especially Joc Pederson after he took a fastball for strike three at the knees. Part of that ire stems from the work of Astros catcher Martin Maldonado. Maldonado is one of the best defensive catchers and pitch-framers in the game, always using subtle mitt movements to make borderline pitches look like strikes. He’ll be stealing strikes all series long.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
10:50 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: José Altuve is waking up. After the first three-strikeout game of his postseason career in Game 1, Altuve had gone 2 for his last 26. He snapped out of his slump in Game 2. Altuve led off the game with a double, and he greeted reliever Drew Smyly by blasting a first-pitch curveball inside the left field foul pole. Altuve had been jumpy at the plate, and so it’s a great sign that he stayed back on Smyly’s curve. It’s not a coincidence the Astros have broken out as Altuve has come alive — they’ll likely be 7-0 this postseason in games when Altuve records a hit and 1-4 when he does not.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
10:29 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: This postseason, the Astros have become experts at the resounding bouncing back. In the ALDS, they lost Game 3 to the White Sox, 12-6, and pummeled them the next day, 10-1, to take the series. They fell behind the Red Sox, 2-1, in the ALCS, and their pitching appeared to be in tatters after losing two in a row by a combined score of 21-8. Then the Astros won the next three games by a combined score of 23-3. After losing Game 1 at home, they’re on their way to another resilient response. It’s an experienced team with a steady, savvy hand in Dusty Baker, and it shows.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
10:05 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: Joc Pederson became an Atlanta folk hero in the NLDS, smashing two pinch-hit home runs and going 3 for 7, all the hits coming a pinch hitter, while wearing a pearl necklace. The pearls remain, but as Pederson has become a regular in the starting lineup, the hits have dried up. Pederson is 6 for 29 with one extra-base hit in the NLCS and World Series, including 1 for 7 with a single in the first two games in Houston. Pederson showed some frustration after popping up in the sixth against reliever Cristian Javier.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
9:56 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: Max Fried emerged over the past two seasons as one of the league’s best left-handed starters. He had a chance tonight, in the wake of Charlie Morton’s broken leg, to take a major step toward stamping himself as one of the game’s true aces. Fried will not deliver a masterpiece thanks to a four-run mess in the second inning. But he has provided the Braves the innings they needed. Having retired 10 batters in a row while finally missing some bats, Fried could cruise for another couple innings to help save a pitching staff that will be tested this series.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
9:27 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: I stumbled upon through the Twitter feed of New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner, and it’s all I want to think about for the rest of the game: Every World Series since 1988 has featured a teammate of John Smoltz, now calling the game for Fox.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
9:12 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: José Urquidy has mowed through three innings in just 46 pitches, a significant boost for a bullpen that recorded 21 outs Tuesday night. Dusty Baker stayed off his best relievers in Game 1 and there’s a day off Wednesday, so Urquidy’s efficiency isn’t hugely necessary. But if the Astros can get out of Houston without having given the Braves any looks at their top bullpen arms, that’s a win. The Astros would probably need a few more runs, though, for Baker not to pitch Ryan Pressly.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
9:00 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: Dusty Baker loves the energy Jorge Siri brings, and his aggressive, heads-up baserunning gave the Astros an extra run in the second. Siri, a 26-year-old rookie, came out of nowhere to hit .304/.347/.609 in limited time this season. He also is wearing a “100” emoji pendant on his chain to match his “100” emoji tattoo. Not a difficult player to enjoy watching.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports
8:51 p.m.
Headshot of Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore: Travis d’Arnaud, who evened the score with a solo homer in the second, has had such a fascinating career. He was a huge prospect in Toronto who went to the Mets alongside Noah Syndergaard in the trade that sent R.A. Dickey, then the reigning Cy Young winner, the Blue Jays. He had a few good seasons, including a massive 2015, the year the Mets made the World Series. His production waned until 2019, when he started 2 for 23 and the Mets released him. It like his career might fizzle then and there. But then the Rays picked him up … and he went 1 for his first 23. The Rays stuck with him, he rediscovered his swing and caught fire. He has made the postseason three straight seasons, twice with Atlanta. If he had one more terrible week with Tampa Bay, who knows if he would even still be in baseball? Here he is launching homers and commanding a staff in the World Series at age 32.
Adam Kilgore, Reporter covering national sports