ALCS Takeaways: Correa comes full-circle in Astros’ dramatic Game 2 win

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa celebrates after his walk-off home run against the New York Yankees during the 11th inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Houston. (/Matt Slocum/AP)

Are you not entertained?

Carlos Correa ended a long night of baseball, and may have found his form in the process, as the Houston Astros took Game 2 of the ALCS in extra innings against the New York Yankees. A huge 3-2 walkoff win that not only tied the series at one game apiece, it allowed Astros players and fans alike to exhale.

In a game of hard-hit singles, bullpen battles and electrifying defensive plays, Game 2 catered to pretty much all baseball audiences. A nearly five-hour marathon that started with a James Paxton vs. Justin Verlander showdown saw 15 total pitchers and very different nights for both starters, as Paxton went just 2.1 innings for the Yankees, while Verlander carried out a 109-pitch, 6.2-inning outing with the Astros.

It is rumoured that George Springer — who homered to tie the game in the fifth — walked around with sage in the Astros’ clubhouse before the game.

Whether you’re a believer or not, it seems like it worked.

Correa comes full-circle

One of the most memorable moments of the 2017 ALCS was Correa’s double to win Game 2 against the Yankees.

Two years later, he did it again — and then some.

It hasn’t been an easy post-season for Correa, who was hitting just .154 in the 2019 playoffs, with no homers and one RBI over six games coming into Game 2, so the stage was set for a bounce-back on Friday.

As ironic as it sounds after an 11-inning game, the Houston shortstop wasted no time, hitting a hard homer to right field on the very first pitch of the inning, dealt by J.A. Happ.

Back in the second inning, Correa had Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez at third and first base with one out. His sharp drive down the left-field line drove in Bregman and gave the Astros their first lead of the night.

The 2012 first-overall pick passed Lance Berkman for most post-season RBIs in Astros history with 27.

But his impact wasn’t limited to offence.

When Jose Altuve bobbled a hard-hit grounder by Brett Gardner in the top of the sixth, DJ LeMahieu took off from second base and rounded third. That’s when Correa bolted for the loose ball near the bag and threw an absolute bullet toward home plate. Chirinos easily tagged LeMahieu out to end the inning and keep the game tied at two.

Looks like Carlos got his groove back.

Judge goes deep at last

Aaron Judge’s first home run of the post-season was a painful one for Verlander.

The Astros ace needed 39 pitches to get through the first three innings, going a perfect nine-up-nine-down, passing Andy Pettite for second-most post-season strikeouts and lifting the raucous crowd at Minute Maid Park.

But after walking LeMahieu to start the fourth, Verlander dealt Judge a poorly executed breaking ball that hovered in the heart of the plate for just an instant before being absolutely crushed at 110 m.p.h. off Judge’s bat, flying 423 feet to right-centre field and disappearing in the stands.

All rise, Astros fans.

The home run also gave Judge his first two RBIs of the playoffs, as the Yankees’ outfielder was unusually quiet in the ALDS sweep over the Minnesota Twins — some much-needed offence as New York had to sideline slugger Giancarlo Stanton with a quad injury.

Verlander needed 23 pitches, but finally weathered the storm and the Yankees left the inning with a welcome-yet-not-comfortable lead.

Judge almost homered off him in the sixth, too, but fell just short as Springer made a warning-track catch in right field.

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Paxton makes early exit

When James Paxton came out of the first inning with no hits allowed and an unscathed scoreboard, it looked like the night might have gone differently for the British Columbia native.

Paxton had allowed 30 runs in 30 first innings before Friday’s outing, so closing out the bottom of the first surrendering nothing but a lead-off walk to Springer was definitely a positive.

But any hope of another quiet night for the Astros’ offence was quickly clobbered harder than Correa’s RBI double in the second.

Paxton limited the damage, quickly striking out the next two batters and ending the inning.

The trend continued, though.

The left-hander surrendered back-to-back singles to Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve with one out in the third, prompting Yankees manager Aaron Boone to call Chad Green out of the bullpen. And just like that, Paxton’s ALCS start was over.

This isn’t July baseball, after all.

The Yankees ended up using nine total pitchers in the game, with Green and Tommy Kahnle seeing a big bulk of the action in relief.

Scary moment

A paramedic supervisor was struck by a Michael Brantley foul ball in the Astros’ dugout in the fifth inning. The game was temporarily stopped as players kneeled and prayed for the employee, who appeared to be injured.

He was helped into the clubhouse by coaching-staff members and later taken to the hospital, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The incident follows a time in MLB where foul balls and protective nettings have been widely discussed, with multiple teams — including the Toronto Blue Jays — announcing the extension of protective ballpark measures.

Sabathia back on the mound

One batter faced, one out.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone called on veteran CC Sabathia in the start of the 10th inning to face the left-handed Brantley. After falling behind 3-0, the 39-year-old Sabathia — set to retire at the end of this season — threw a couple of good pitches and got Brantley to faintly ground out.

Sabathia gave Boone a playful smile before handing him the ball to end a five-pitch outing. The 19-year MLB veteran hadn’t pitched since Sept. 24. He underwent a procedure to fix a blocked artery last December.

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