CLEVELAND -- Loyalty to his players is one of Astros manager AJ Hinch's strengths. Two of the most noteworthy examples involve star players George Springer, who Hinch didn't bump down in the lineup despite striking out four times in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series, and Alex Bregman, who
CLEVELAND -- Loyalty to his players is one of Astros manager AJ Hinch's strengths. Two of the most noteworthy examples involve star players George Springer, who Hinch didn't bump down in the lineup despite striking out four times in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series, and Alex Bregman, who was moved up in the order when he broke into the Majors in '16, even though he wasn't producing.
So it should come as no surprise that Hinch is standing by star shortstop Carlos Correa, whose late-season struggles at the plate have carried into the postseason. Correa, who hit .180 after coming off the disabled list on Aug. 10 through the end of the regular season, went 0-for-7 with a walk in the first two games of the American League Division Series against the Indians.
Correa will be in the lineup for Game 3 today at Progressive Field, where the Astros can sweep the Indians with a win and advance to the AL Championship Series for the second year in a row.
"I know we put so much pressure on this guy, and there's so much attention on what he's doing and not doing," Hinch said. "He's a winning player and can help us win. I think his swing has been good. His results haven't been there. But there's no chance that I'm going to lose faith in that, in an at-bat where he comes up that he can't do something positive. He can do something every single day. The defense has been excellent. His presence matters on our team. I hope the ball's hit to him every single time."
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Correa's presence on the field is noticeable beyond the batter's box. A strong defender, he poses one of the strongest shortstop arms in the game. Hinch referenced a play Correa made late in Game 2, when he was back on his heels while fielding the ball and threw a bullet to first base to get the leadoff hitter out.
"That's as important as any at at-bat," Hinch said.
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Still, Correa has been an offensive force for the Astros since he was called up to the big leagues in 2015. They didn't need his bat to beat the Indians in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, but a productive Correa is paramount for Houston's success moving through October.
"Obviously, the guys have my back out there on the field, and I try to do my best to help the team win games -- if it's with defense, baserunning, whatever it is," Correa said. "Hitting has been a little tough for me, but I keep working every single day to get my stride back. And at some point, I know I'm going to be able to come back and help the team offensively."
Today, Correa will be playing behind starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who generates a lot of ground balls to the left side of the field.
"You almost take for granted how strong of an arm he's got," Keuchel said. "Since he's been back, his bat hasn't been there, but other guys have picked up where he kind of left off. But [on the] defensive side, he's as good as anybody."
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Correa, who was on the DL with a sore back, has hit some balls harder than 100 mph in the postseason with nothing to show for it, which means he's driving the ball better than he did late in the regular season.
"If those fall, they give you a lot of confidence when you step up to the plate in your next at-bat," he said. "I feel like lately my at-bats have been good. They've been very competitive and I've hit the ball hard a couple of times. It's just about finding holes now."
Springer, who went on to win the Most Valuable Player Award in last year's World Series after his 0-for-4 start, says Houston's lineup is better when it includes any version of Correa.
"He's been a mainstay in our lineup for three, four years," Springer said. "So I know this is a pretty result-oriented time of the year, but to have him in there means a lot to us. And it's probably not easy to game plan around him as an opposing staff either."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>