In his still-young MLB career, Carlos Correa has proven to be someone built for the biggest stages. He proved it yet again Thursday when his walk-off homer saved the Astros season and forced a Game 6 in the ALCS against the Rays.
With the game tied 3-3 in the ninth, Correa was one of the last people the Rays wanted to see at the plate. He’d already hit five homers this postseason, and with one out, against Nick Anderson, one of the Rays’ best pitchers, Correa unleashed a blast to the deepest part of the ballpark.
Before Carlos Correa headed to the plate in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, he told Dusty Baker, “Walk-off.”
The 71-year-old manager replied, “Go ahead, man,” and then said a quick prayer to his father and brother.
If the Houston Astros went to extra innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, Baker thought, he’d have to burn Framber Valdéz, his projected Game 6 starter.
Baker’s prayer was answered with a loud crack.
For the second straight night, the Astros fended off elimination in the best-of-seven series, closing to within 3-2 in search of a World Series berth behind sensational pitching from five rookies.
Rays first baseman Choi Ji-man tied a close game at 3-3 with a solo homer in the eighth.
Except for an occasional homer, the Tampa Bay Rays’ offense has fallen largely silent on the World Series’s brink.
For all their superb pitching, sublime defense, tactical innovation, and relentless cheerleading from the dugout, the Rays might not go any farther.
If Tampa Bay cannot put some men on base and score a few more old-fashioned runs than the Houston Astros, game over.
Tampa Bay hit three solo homers and stranded nine runners while absorbing back-to-back defeats for the first time since Sept. 8-10.
Correa drove a fastball at the letters from Nick Anderson just past the palm trees to the right of the batter’s eye at Petco Park, watched the ball for a few steps, and then flung his bat. He was greeted at home by his ecstatic teammates and had a long hug with Baker.
“I don’t mean no disrespect when I call my shot,” said Correa, who added that he went to the indoor cage after his second and third at-bats to work with hitting coach Alex Cintron and make adjustments. “We felt it and it was like, ‘Wow. This feels good,'” the shortstop said.
It’s no secret the Rays are struggling at the plate in the postseason, batting just .210 with a .695 OPS — both easily the lowest among the four teams still alive. It hadn’t hurt them until the last two days in the ALCS when the Astros squeaked out a pair of wins.