SAN DIEGO — Before heading onto the field for their latest do-or-die game on Friday, Houston Astros infielders Carlos Correa Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa logged onto YouTube to watch highlights of the most improbable playoff comeback in Major League Baseball history. In 24 hours time, they and their teammates will now have the opportunity to become the subjects of the latest frequently-qatched great escape act in the MLB postseason.
Correa and outfielder George Springer continued their clutch play in their postseason careers, both providing run-scoring hits in a four-tun fifth inning during the Astros’ 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at PETCO Park, forcing a Game 7 after going down in the series 3-0. Framber Valdez allowed just three hits and a run while striking out nine Rays to add to his 2020 postseason heroics.
Before tonight, only the 2004 Boston Red Sox had ever forced a Game 7 after losing the first three games of a best-of-seven series, stunning the Yankees in the final game of the ALCS on their way to a much-awaited World Series title. Though the Astros have a championship to speak of in very recent times in 2017, Houston is a win away from having this possible accomplishment rival their only World Series championship memories.
“We’re relentless. When we said we didn’t want to go home, we really meant that,” said Correa, who went 3-for-5 on Thursday. “We want to keep playing baseball and we don’t want it to be the end of our season. We took care of these three games, and we have to take care of one more.”
The Astros forced that one more game after falling behind in the second inning after a Willy Adames RBI double. Houston got the first two men on base in the fifth off Rays starter Blake Snell, on a Yuli Gurriel walk and Aledmys Diaz single. A rare sacrifice bunt, laid down perfectly by catcher Martin Maldonado, moved the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position before Springer singled through a drawn-in infield to plate two and give Houston the lead. Jose Altuve followed with a run-scoring double to score Springer before Correa plated Altuve with a base hit to left two batters later.
In a season where the the MLB eliminated the designated hitter in both leagues and baseballs have been flying out of the park for home runs during the playoffs, Houston’s perfect execution of situational baseball, a.k.a. “small ball,” set the team on their way to moving one step closer to making improbable history.
“That was the difference in the game,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “You never know which hit is going to be the real difference, but that was great. [Maldonado] works on his bunting, and that was perfect by George.”