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Correa rested, ready for next playoff challenge

Astros shortstop says his back feels good after short ALDS
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

BOSTON -- The layover between Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday and Saturday's Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Red Sox has served Astros shortstop Carlos Correa's back well.

Correa, who has been dealing with a sore back throughout the second half of the season, said on Friday that he feels the best he has physically since being activated from the disabled list on Aug. 10. He missed six weeks with a back issue that affected him at the plate, even after he returned from the DL.

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BOSTON -- The layover between Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday and Saturday's Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Red Sox has served Astros shortstop Carlos Correa's back well.

Correa, who has been dealing with a sore back throughout the second half of the season, said on Friday that he feels the best he has physically since being activated from the disabled list on Aug. 10. He missed six weeks with a back issue that affected him at the plate, even after he returned from the DL.

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:: ALCS schedule and results ::

"Obviously, I've been on top of my treatment and everything, so right now I feel really good," Correa said following the team's workout at Fenway Park. "I'm ready for a great series. You have to go out there and compete, man. We love to play October baseball and we love to win games."

Correa hit .180 from the time he was activated through the end of the regular season and got off to a slow start in the ALDS before hitting a three-run homer late in Game 3 on Monday. Correa has continued to play at a high level on defense despite his offensive struggles, so any contributions he makes at the plate would be a boon to the Astros.

Gear up for the ALCS

Pitchers look to slow Betts
Finding a way to contain Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts figures to be a key focus for the Astros' pitching staff. The likely AL Most Valuable Player Award winner hit .346 with 32 homers, 80 RBIs and 30 steals in the regular season and sets the tone at the top of Boston's potent lineup.

"It's just keeping him out of hitter's counts, and it's really hard because he's in a hitter's count from the minute he steps into the batter's box," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He's hard to corral, and he's every bit the energy provider and the hits provider, and when the lineup rolls around, you know where he's at. It's why he's one of the most dynamic players in the league."

Betts was 3-for-16 in the Red Sox's ALDS victory over the Yankees with just one extra-base hit, including a pair of 0-for-4 games. Of course, the Sox still won that series in four games despite Betts' struggles, but the Astros' chances of outpitching Boston may hinge on limiting Betts' production.

Betts, who was on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain when the Red Sox came to Houston in early June, proved to be a difficult out for the Astros a month ago at Fenway Park. He went 7-for-11 with three doubles in the three-game series, but he didn't steal a base.

Espada approved for interviews
The Astros are allowing bench coach Joe Espada to interview for managerial openings via phone while the team marches through the playoffs. Espada, who's in his first year as bench coach under Hinch, has interviewed for the Rangers' job and he has been linked to the Angels' vacant managerial position as well.

Last year, the Astros went through the same process when bench coach Alex Cora interviewed for managerial positions during the playoffs before he was eventually hired by the Red Sox.

Video: Hinch discusses friendship with ALCS foe Cora

"He's had some conversations with some teams," Hinch said of Espada. "I stay private with which teams based on their process. He's a sought-after candidate for all the right reasons, and we went through this last season, and we're going through it again this postseason where one of our best coaches is being looked at for some interesting jobs."

Hinch has had three bench coaches in four years as Astros manager -- Trey Hillman in 2015-16, Cora in '17 and Espada this year. Hillman left to manage in Korea before Hinch brought in Cora, whom he tried to hire as a first-base coach when took over in '15.

Espada, 43, spent the previous four years with the Yankees, including the last three as a third-base coach. Prior to joining the Yanks, he had an eight-year run with the Marlins and was their third-base coach from 2010-13.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

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