Just before midnight Sunday night, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa took a first pitch fastball from JA Happ and sent it over the right field wall, winning the game 3-2 and evening the American League Conference Series at 1-1 as the series moves to the Bronx on Tuesday. For Correa, it was a long time coming and, for the Astros, a huge win before hitting the road.
Correa, who had struggled with a broken rib and a balky back this season, had his first game back after a month off in game one of the playoffs against Tampa Bay. With the home run, and an RBI double earlier in the game, Correa boosted his OPS to a meager .556. Only three 'Stros, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and light-duty catcher Martin Maldonado are hitting above the major league average in that stat of .758.
So, any offense is a welcome sight, especially from Correa, whose bat is critical to a lineup that was so potent in the regular season. In game two, the Astros didn't have a hit after the fifth inning until Correa's homer in extra innings. In the fifth, George Springer, who had been struggling, got a home run to tie up the game at two.
The pitchers' duel played out differently for each team. The Yankees used nine pitchers, relying heavily on their bullpen and situational pitching. The Astros on the other hand went with number one starter Justin Verlander for six-and-two-thirds innings (5 hits, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts) before turning to five relievers, two of which went for one-and-two-thirds innings each (Joe Smith, Roberto Osuna).
Both strategies worked as two of the most productive offenses in baseball combined for 13 hits and 5 runs in 11 innings.
Correa also came up with the defensive play of the game. His skills in the field are sometimes overlooked, but he is one of the better infielders in the AL and it showed in the top of the sixth. Brett Gardner slapped a line drive towards Altuve that took and awkward bounce off the second baseman's chest to his right. The Yankees sent DJ Lemahieu home from third when Correa barehanded the ball and fired it home beating Lemahieu by four or five steps.
The Astros escape Houston with a split and sent Gerrit Cole to the mound Tuesday night in New York.