SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Carlos Correa homered with one out in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Thursday behind sensational pitching from five rookies to remain alive in the AL Championship Series.
Correa drove a fastball at the letters from Nick Anderson to straightaway center field, watched the ball for a few steps and then flung his bat. He was greeted at home by his ecstatic teammates. Correa is only 3 for 18 in the series, but two of the hits are homers.
Houston won a second straight elimination game thanks in large part to starter Luis Garcia and four fellow rookies, who combined to hold the Rays to two runs and four hits through 6 2/3 innings before manager Dusty Baker finally turned to a veteran, Josh James. Ryan Pressly, the seventh Astros pitcher, got the victory.
The Astros pulled to 3-2 and forced Game 6 on Friday, which will be a rematch between left-handers Blake Snell of Tampa Bay and Framber Valdez of Houston.
In the ALCS for a fourth straight year, the Astros are trying to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS and went on to win their first World Series in 86 seasons.
Otherwise, big league clubs leading 3-0 in a best-of-seven postseason series are 37-1.
The Astros became the first team to hit a leadoff and walkoff home run in a postseason game.
“We had a meeting after we lost that third game. We said, ‘Hey, we're not ready to go home, so we've got to do something about it.'" Correa said. “But we've still got a long ways to go. We've got to keep taking care of business."
Baker said Correa called the walkoff. The two hugged during the celebration.
“Boy, that will go down as one of greatest games in history and hopefully go down as one of greatest comebacks in history after two more games," said Baker, 71, the first manager to take five different teams to the playoffs. “That's as big a game as I've been involved in. That's one of the reason's that I came back."
The Astros, who got into the playoffs with a 29-31 regular-season record, are trying to reach the World Series for the third time in four years. They are trying to get there in a year when they have been criticized for their role in a cheating scandal en route to the 2017 title that was uncovered last offseason.
Correa also hit a walkoff homer in Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS off Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees.
George Springer homered on opener John Curtiss’ first pitch and Michael Brantley broke a tie with a two-run single. Houston became the first team with a leadoff and walk-off home run in a postseason game.
“You go from feeling pretty good about our chances to knowing the game was over a short time after that," Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “They played a little bit better than us today, and it came down to one swing."
Tampa Bay’s Ji-Man Choi tied the game with a homer to deep right leading off the eighth.
Rookie Randy Arozarena continued his remarkable postseason by hitting his sixth homer in 12 games and Brandon Lowe also connected for the Rays, who need one more win to reach the Fall Classic for the second time in franchise history.
Springer led off the bottom of the first by sending Curtiss’ first pitch onto the second balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in the left field corner at Petco Park. On Wednesday night, he drove a two-run shot onto the third balcony to break a tie and lead the Astros to a 4-3 win.
It was his fourth homer this postseason and 19th of his career, the most in franchise history and tying Albert Pujols for fourth all-time.
After Lowe homered to right-center off Blake Taylor leading off the third to tie the game, Brantley singled to right off Josh Fleming to bring in Josh Reddick, who singled, and Martin Maldonado, who doubled. Lowe’s throw was off-line, and the 230-pound Maldonado scored with a headfirst slide.
Arozarena pulled the Rays to 3-2 with an opposite-field shot to right-center off Enoli Paredes with one out in the fifth. Arozarena homered for the second straight game, third time this series and sixth time this postseason, tying the rookie record set by Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in 2008.
His 20 postseason hits are two shy of Derek Jeter’s rookie record in 1996.
Garcia held Tampa Bay hitless in two innings while striking out two and walking one. Taylor allowed one hit and one run in two-thirds of an inning, Paredes allowed one run and one hit while striking out three in 1 2/3 innings, Andre Scrubb gave up two hits in 1 ½ innings and Brooks Raley worked a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, including fanning Arozarena leading off the seventh.
Garcia, making his first postseason appearance, got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second. Paredes got consecutive strikeouts with runners on first and second in the fourth. Scrubb came on with a runner on first and one out in the fifth and struck out Yandy Diaz before allowing Ji-Man Choi’s single. He got Manuel Margot to hit a grounder to third baseman Alex Bregman, who bare-handed it and threw him out to end the inning.
Baker’s instincts won out again when he decided to leave in Garcia even though the rookie got into trouble in the second. After walking Choi with one out and hitting Joey Wendle on the foot with a pitch, Baker sent pitching coach Brent Strom out for a chat with the 23-year-old Garcia. The rookie proceeded to walk Willy Adames before getting Mike Zunino to fly out to the warning track in right.
Taylor took over opening the third and gave up Lowe’s leadoff homer.
On Wednesday night, Baker stuck with Zack Greinke even though he got into trouble in the sixth. Greinke proceeded to load the bases but then struck out Mike Brosseau on a 3-2 changeup to end the threat.
Curtiss allowed one run and one hit in 1 1/3 innings.
Houston matched the Marlins by using an MLB-high 15 rookie pitchers in 2020. They have nine rookie pitchers on their ALCS roster.
Rays: Kiermaier was out of the starting lineup a second straight day after getting hit by a pitch on the left hand on Tuesday night. He pinch ran in the ninth.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdéz lost the ALCS opener, 2-1.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell pitched five innings to win the opener.
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