Correa ropes 2 HRs: 'I love October baseball'
Carlos Correa hammered his first home run over the center-field wall at Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning Monday afternoon, then hit another one in approximately the same area three innings later as the Astros defeated the A's, 10-5, in Game 1 of their best-of-five American League Division Series.
Did we mention that Correa added a run-scoring single in the ninth inning and that he made every play at shortstop? That he ignited a couple of joyous dugout celebrations? That for one October afternoon, the Astros looked exactly like the team that has been to the World Series twice in the past three seasons?
There may be better teams in this postseason. Actually, there's no question there are. But no team has the track record of this one, and on a day when Correa collected three of Houston's 16 hits, when its young relievers were again superb, the Astros -- and their 26-year-old shortstop -- left Dodger Stadium feeling pretty good about themselves.
"When Carlos Correa's right, ain't nobody better," Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. said, "and that's just facts. [His] presence can never go understated. I think he's the best shortstop in baseball."
Correa played his 53rd postseason game on Monday, and after a regular season in which the Astros couldn't break .500 (29-31), they've opened the playoffs with three straight victories -- two against the Twins in last week's AL Wild Card Series and Game 1 of the ALDS against the A's.
Correa has been around long enough and had enough snapshot moments that he has put himself into the conversation with a household name or two.
Correa's 14 postseason home runs are the most by a player before his 27th birthday, surpassing the record of 13 shared by Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez. Correa's 38 postseason RBIs passed Pujols among players who've yet to turn 27.
Correa's also the 19th player to have multiple career multihomer postseason games. He's the first Astro -- and the first shortstop -- to do it.
And one more. Correa's four RBIs on Monday make him the eighth player with three games of at least that one. Shane Victorino is the all-time leader with four such games.
"He always seems to rise to the occasion," teammate George Springer said. "He's one of the best out there, and I've seen him do special things on every stage."
When the Astros speak of Correa, they run down his physical gifts, work ethic and relentless competitive fire. But part of what makes him special is the joy and emotion he's unafraid to display. And that emotion has been part of Houston's DNA in this run of five postseason appearances in six seasons.
"I just feel it's the same game we used to play as a little kid," Correa said. "I show emotions because I love this game so much and I can't take it for granted. One day I'm gonna be 40 and look back and [don't want to] be like, 'Wow. Why didn't you enjoy the game as much as I wanted to?'
"I want to be able to make sure that when I'm 40 and I look back I say I enjoyed the game every single day. I show passion, and I make sure that fans know about it."
Astros manager Dusty Baker credited hitting coach Alex Cintron with helping Correa make late-season mechanical adjustments to rediscover his power swing. After hitting three homers in his final 122 regular-season at-bats, Correa has three in three postseason games.
Correa spent an entire day off in Arlington attempting to get back to the mechanics he'd used in his rookie season of 2015. Finally, something clicked.
"My hand position, the way I position my body, and it was completely different to what I was doing throughout this year," Correa said.
Baker moved Correa from seventh to sixth in his batting order for Game 1 after watching how comfortable his swing looked last week in the Twin Cities.
"It's an emotional game," Baker said. "It's a game of highs and lows. It's a game of failure, so you might as well celebrate when you do something good. He's feeling like he's getting hot, and this whole game of baseball is about feel."
To win three straight postseason games after an injury-filled 29-31 regular season isn't what anyone expected. But when a team has won as much as the Astros have, and even without Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez and a string of veteran relievers, there's a feeling that they can write their own ending on baseball's biggest stage.
"I love October baseball," Correa said. "I want to be in those spots. I want to be in situations, you know, decisive situations. You know, October baseball, the energy's just different. I know there's no fans here, but knowing that you win or go home is what drives me every single day. I don't want to go home just yet."