HOUSTON – There are bat beats and home run celebrations. And then there’s what Houston Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa did on Friday night.
Even those who despise the Astros can perhaps appreciate the mix of swagger, showmanship, and uninhibited emotion that Correa displayed after providing the pivot in a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1. of the American League to the best of seven. Championship Series.
After sending a ball to the left-field seats to break up a draw, Correa stood at home plate to watch his work. He threw his bat aside as an unnecessary prop. Then, as Red Sox pitcher Hansel Robles watched the ball fly and wide receiver Christian Vazquez bowed his head, Correa showed his left wrist as he gazed towards the Astros dugout.
“When the playoffs start they always tell me, ‘It’s your turn now to go out there, hit home runs, this and that. “They told me to strike the watch,” Correa said of his teammates. He added, “Today they told me if you hit a homerun hit them with the ‘it’s your time.’ It just happened naturally there.
The man who turns into a knocking machine when the calendar moves to October had knocked again. Aided by longtime teammate and playoff hero Jose Altuve and backed up by assist from reliever Cristian Javier, Correa and the Astros survived the Red Sox, even as Boston’s Kiké Hernandez continued his October teardown. .
“Everyone expected this game or series to be a slugfest, and this game actually involved a lot more throwing than hitting,” said Hernandez, including the 4 for 5 night, which included two home runs. increased his playoff average to. 500 (14 for 28). “It’s going to be a hell of a series, and it was a hell of a Game 1.”
In the opening act of clashing two of baseball’s best attacks, the winners were the team that tinkered with enough throws to withstand the other’s attack. After the starting pitchers of both teams were eliminated in the third inning, it was the Houston relievers roster and box that were the strongest.
“A great game of baseball,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the four-hour game featuring 16 pitchers, three point changes and late-game rallies. “Two hits changed the course of the game.”
One of those swings belonged, of course, to Correa. The other, however, was pitched by Altuve in the sixth inning when the Astros fell behind after their starting pitcher Framber Valdez tripped.
His counterpart, Chris Sale, also spat, which set the stage for a paddock battle. Sale, a seven-time All-Star, has continued his inconsistent pitching since returning from Tommy John surgery. He was cunning enough to allow just one run in two and two-thirds of innings when it looked like things were going to get worse for him. And he was saved by a dive from Hernandez with the goals loaded in the second set which saved two runs.
At home plate, Hernandez provided another boost. He tied the score at 1 with a solo shot from Valdez in the third inning. Then the Red Sox capitalized on other Astros mistakes.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts walked and third baseman Rafael Devers picked Valdez. When designated hitter JD Martinez burned a ball in the middle, Altuve couldn’t line it up. Instead of a double play late in the set, Bogaerts scored and everyone was safe. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe then pushed Boston’s lead to 3-1 with a brace that tackled Devers.
After Valdez left, the Astros’ enclosure kept the Red Sox under control long enough to make a comeback. And with the Astros’ offense, the most successful baseball of the regular season, it was only a matter of time.
Javier pitched two scoreless innings and struck out four of seven batters. And in the sixth round, Altuve atoned for his mistake. With a runner, he crushed a two-point reliever, Tanner Houck, who had been a godsend for the Red Sox box lately.
Altuve’s home run not only tied the score at 3, but it re-energized the 40,534 people who had filled Minute Maid Park. It also marked a milestone for Altuve as he became the fourth person in major league history with 20 career homers in the playoffs. The other members of this group are Manny Ramirez (29), Bernie Williams (22) and Derek Jeter (20).
“Derek Jeter is one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and just hitting as many home runs as he has meant a lot to me,” said Altuve.
Altuve, 31, did not return his bat after his home run. Of course, he’s been here before – he’s been the Astros’ star second baseman during that five-year period of domination and won a World Series title in their now-marred 2017 season. And he has a very different personality than Correa, 27.
In the next round, it showed. Robles pumped fastballs at 99 mph to secure the first two outs in the seventh. As he watched, Correa said he visualized the throws that were coming to him and how he would throw himself at them. He aimed his shot in the middle and over the fence. And just in case Robles made a change, Correa figured he could still connect with that approach.
So when Robles threw a 2-2 change over the plate, Correa unleashed a swing that sent the crowd – and himself – into a frenzy. It also put him past his favorite player, Albert Pujols, as the active leader of the produced playoffs (55).
Flying around the bases, Correa motioned for the crowd to make more noise. As he rounded the third goal, he brought his hand to his ear. When he walked through the marble he looked up to the sky.
A sacrificial ball from Altuve that scored first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the eighth inning gave the Astros a cushion to withstand another blast from Hernandez in the ninth.
“When you have the top two teams in the American League, you’re going to have some good games,” Correa said, adding later, “I feel like this series is going to be fun to watch all-around no matter what. the number of games we play. It’s gonna be special, and I think baseball fans are going to have a blast.