Correa joins Pujols in elite playoff RBI club

Shortstop's 54 postseason runs knocked in tied for most among active players

October 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- When the Astros loaded the bases on Tuesday afternoon on consecutive two-out walks in the top of the third in the eventual 10-1 win in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, a win that led them to their fifth consecutive American League Championship Series, the situation once again called for to play the hero.

Correa, a career .272 postseason hitter entering play on Tuesday, had already come through multiple times in clutch situations for the Astros in the first five seasons his team reached the playoffs. So with the bases filled and the chance to put some runs on the board against White Sox starter Carlos Rodón, there was arguably no other batter Houston would have rather had step to the plate at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Correa fouled off a 97.3 mph fastball to start the at-bat, then took a called strike at the top of the strike zone. But he wasn’t about to let a second straight high heater go by, and he caught up to another 97 mph fastball and deposited it into right field. The double drove in Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead and knocking Rodón out of the game before he could record nine outs.

“Just watching the game, I noticed that [Rodón] was striking everybody out with the fastball, and you see him bumping his chest and screaming,” Correa said. “I’m 0-2, bases loaded, he wants to strike me out so he can hit it again and yell. And I said, 'I’m not gonna let a fastball go by me.' If he would have thrown a slider, I probably would have fallen on the plate, but I was 100 percent committed to the fastball and getting on top of it. He threw it, and I capitalized.”

The two-run double also put Correa in some historic company: The seventh-year shortstop (in just his 66th career playoff game) recorded his 53rd and 54th career postseason RBIs. That extended his franchise-high playoff RBI record while putting him into a tie with Albert Pujols for both the sixth-most postseason RBIs in AL/NL history and the most among active players.

The fact that Correa has moved into a tie with Pujols, one of the best hitters in baseball history, in both categories is a testament to how long the Astros have been able to continually rely on Correa in the postseason.

At just 27 years old, Correa is seven years younger than Pujols was when Pujols recorded his last postseason RBI (Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS). Pujols playing in just five playoff games (as of Tuesday afternoon) since leaving St. Louis after 2011 has certainly helped Correa close the gap, but as one of the most productive hitters in Houston’s lineup, Correa managed to match the active leader in 11 fewer games than it took Pujols to set it.

“Carlos has been one of the greatest big-game players in the history of the Astros, and even the history of the game, and I don't hear him talking about it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He just wants to play for his teammates and wants to win.”

With the Astros moving on to face the Red Sox in the ALCS, there’s more than a good chance that Correa will pass Pujols on the all-time leaderboard before the end of this postseason.

Any playoff RBIs Correa records after ‘21, though, might be in a different uniform.

Correa is set to hit free agency at the conclusion of the postseason, because he and the Astros did not agree to a contract extension before Correa’s self-imposed Opening Day deadline. After that cutoff, Correa posted one of his best seasons as a Major Leaguer (career-high 26 home runs, .279/.366/.485). That’s continued through the four-game ALDS, in which Correa went 5-for-13 with a 1.068 OPS.

With the future uncertain, Correa is trying to enjoy this postseason run as much as he did any of the previous five. Another impressive run could entice the Astros to do what they can to keep Correa in Houston -- but he’ll worry about that when the time comes.

“I'm just going to go out there with my teammates with one goal in mind; that's to win it all,” Correa said. “When the offseason comes, I will think about all that other stuff, but right now the main focus is helping this team win a championship. That's all I think about.”