Before Carlos Correa headed to the batter’s box in the ninth inning, he predicted something for manager Dusty Baker: He would hit a home run that would end Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
“Man, go ahead!” The 71-year-old pilot replied, before reciting a quick prayer to his father and brother.
Baker feared that if the extra innings were necessary, he would have to turn to Framber Valdez, whom he planned to use as Game 6’s starter.
But the manager’s prayer found an answer, with a solid hit.
Correa hit a one-out homer in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Thursday night to stay alive once again in the American League Championship Series.
Five rookie relievers delivered a sensational performance for Houston, before Correa found a pitch from Nick Anderson and the ball disappeared all over center field. He took a few steps, watching the ball fly, and then tossed his bat.
He was greeted at the plate by his jubilant companions, and by Baker, who hugged him. He’s hit just 3-for-18 in the series, but two of his hits have been home runs.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone when I predict a home run,” Correa said, adding that he entered the indoor batting cage after his second and third shifts, to work a little with his countryman, coach Alex Cintron, in order to make some adjustments.
“We felt that everything was going well and we said: Wow! This is good, ”said the shortstop.
And he conveyed his good feeling to his partner, Venezuelan José Altuve, after the eighth inning.
“I told Altuve, when we left the field: ‘I’m going to finish this,'” Correa recalled. “I could feel that my swing was in sync, that my rhythm was good, that I wanted to hit the ball. When he threw the fastball at me, I got a good swing and got exactly what I wanted. “
Houston won for the second night in a row a game in which it risked being eliminated, thanks in part to Venezuelan starter Luis Garcia and four other rookies, who combined to limit the Rays to two runs and four hits over six 2/3 innings, before Baker finally turned to a veteran, Josh James.
Ryan Pressly, the Astros’ seventh pitcher, took the win.
The Astros forced a sixth game to take place this Friday. It will be a rematch of the starters from the first game, both left-handed. Blake Nell will pitch for Tampa Bay and Valdez for Houston.
Houston, which is in the Championship Series for the fourth year in a row, is trying to join the Boston Red Sox, who in 2004 became the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. The Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and later won their first World Series title in 86 years.
Major league teams that have been 3-0 in a seven-game series are 37-1 all-time.
For the Rays, the Cubans Randy Arozarena 5-1 with a run scored and an RBI, Yandy Díaz 4-0. The Dominicans Manuel Margot 4-1, Willy Adames 3-0.
For the Astros, the Venezuelan Altuve 2-1. The Puerto Ricans Correa 4-1 with a run scored and an RBI, Martín Maldonado 3-1 with a run scored. The Cuban Yuli Gurriel 3-0. (GG) (MLB in Spanish)