So much has been written about Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa that it becomes almost rote for them to do something important or exciting, particularly at playoff time. It was no different during Game 1 of the A.L.C.S. in Houston where the two participated in all five Houston tallies during a tense 5-4 triumph before 40,534 at Minute Maid Park.
Correa: There it flies
(c) Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle
Down 3-1 in the sixth, Altuve slammed a two-run shot into the Crawfords, amazingly his 20th postseason home run, nearing the all-time record of 22, which tied the game and gave the restless home fans reason to celebrate. Having fanned with the bases loaded and committed an error that unleashed a three-run Boston frame in the third, Altuve redeemed himself as one of the team's clutch hitters. He also walked and scored in the first and plated Yuli Gurriel with a sacrifice fly in the eighth that proved to be the decisive run.
Then there's Correa, whose postseason exploits are also becoming the stuff of legends. All Carlos did was smoke the go-ahead homer in the seventh that reclaimed the lead.
Just as Seattle has Abraham Toro and the Angels have Jack Mayfield, the BoSox have Kike Hernandez who belted two solo homers for Boston - one in the third off Framber Valdez and the other in the ninth off closer Ryan Pressly. Hernandez was dealt to Miami from Houston early in his career and has been safely tucked away in the other league until this season when the Red Sox signed him as a free agent. Like Toro and Mayfield, he's an Astros castoff that seems to be at his best against the team that gave up on him.
Valdez lasted just 2-2/3rds innings as manager Dusty Baker showed a quick hook, turning to a seven-deep bullpen to finish it out. Ryne Stanek took the win despite getting only one out. Boston starter Chris Sale also was yanked after 2-2/3rds and seven Beantown relievers were used to complete 5-1/3rd frames. Now you know how this gem took over four hours to complete despite just nine runs.
There's little time for the Astros or their fans to celebrate as Game 2 of the series begins Saturday afternoon at 3:20 p.m. Central time. Righthander Nathan Eovaldi will pitch for Boston while Luis Garcia gets the nod for the Spaceman.
In other news, starting pitcher Lance McCullers was dropped from the postseason roster for the A.L.C.S. after his right shoulder injury didn't heal in time. An MRI revealed no structural damage but he was deemed not to be ready to be included in this playoff round. Controversial starter Jake Odorizzi, like Eovaldi a former Tampa Bay Ray, was added to the A.L.C.S. roster.
Should the Astros advance to the World Series, McCullers can be re-evaluated for his fitness to play in that. McCullers' record in the postseason is stellar, sporting a 2-2 record with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.081 WHIP in 57 playoff innings.
- Bob Hulsey