Postseason ‘giant’ Carlos Correa powers Twins past Astros to even ALDS

Postseason 'giant' Carlos Correa powers Twins past Astros to even ALDS

HOUSTON — If there’s one player who can take down the mighty Astros, it’s Carlos Correa

Correa’s legendary postseason performances originated in Houston. But on Sunday, the Astros suffered their first division series home loss in eight years thanks to the very monster they created.

“I know what happens when they lose a game,” Correa noted. “I’ve been on the other side, and I know the speech and the meetings and all the stuff that happens. They’ll be ready to go in the next game. So will we.”

The star shortstop populated the bases all night for the Twins, his two-run single ultimately securing their 6-2 win over the Astros in Game 2 of the ALDS on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. The unforgettable image of Correa standing atop the base, clapping his hands, then slapping his chest, and roaring in celebration toward the Twins dugout will haunt Houston until — if? — the Astros can do something to erase it. 

Just for good measure, Correa also reminded Houston that he can still one-up the pupil who replaced him. Correa took a hit away from Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña with a dazzling defensive play in the hole at short before throwing a cannon to first for the final out of the game. It was poetry in motion. Though Houston’s home crowd booed Correa earlier in the game — an interesting development given their support Saturday, not to mention Correa’s role in the club’s 2017 title and two ensuing World Series appearances — the fans certainly held their tongues by the end of it.

“They’re rooting for their team, right? I’m not on their team anymore,” Correa said of the booing. “After everything I did for the organization, that’s in the past. Now, like I’ve moved forward, they’ve moved forward as well. And I understand it.”

Another performance sure to stick in the minds of the Astros? Twins starter Pablo López absolutely shoving. The right-hander carved up Houston’s lineup, firing seven shutout innings across 105 pitches, while surrendering just six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. His latest gem was exactly what the Twins needed before flying back to Minnesota. 

In a battle of aces, Minnesota’s shined when the lights were brightest and the pressure stomach-churning. Correa later compared López’s recent run to 2019 Gerrit Cole, when “it felt like hitters had no chance.” 

Twins’ Carlos Correa makes fantastic diving play to close out Astros in G2

After becoming the first Twins pitcher since Johan Santana in 2004 to throw seven scoreless innings in a postseason start, the veteran righty praised Correa for telling him to approach every inning like it was a 0-0 game.

“He can really hype up a team,” López said. “A lot of guys in our clubhouse maybe don’t have the most playoff experience or these big moments, but he’s such an incredible source of that kind of information. And he keeps you accountable, he keeps you honest, and he keeps you on the attack.”

Following a day off Monday, the Twins and Astros will take the ALDS to Target Field on Tuesday with the series tied at 1-1 in the best-of-five round. 

For an idea of just how happy their flight home will be, the Twins blasted a techno remix to Lil Wayne’s 2008 hit “A Milli” while packing their bags in the visitor’s clubhouse. That millionaire feeling couldn’t have happened without a certain former Astro laying the groundwork against a current one on the mound.

Correa’s playoff flash began as early as the first inning, when he lofted an RBI double off the left-field wall against Framber Valdez. All night, the left-hander couldn’t figure out how to get Correa out. In their next encounter, Correa drew a seven-pitch walk. When Correa dug into the box with the bases loaded in the fifth, Astros manager Dusty Baker surprisingly ignored the damage Correa had already done and opted to leave Valdez in rather than go to the bullpen. 

Baker was instantly stung by the decision, as Correa’s two-run single looped into shallow center and extended Minnesota’s lead to 5-0. Only then did Baker remove Valdez from the game after 4.1 innings and 90 pitches. Valdez’s five earned runs were more than he allowed in all four of his 2022 postseason starts combined. Correa, meanwhile, had just surpassed the likes of David Ortiz and Derek Jeter in all-time postseason RBIs.

Correa hits two-run single, extending Twins’ lead over Astros

“He’s one of the best double play guys in the league,” Baker said of Valdez. “Correa’s hit into 30 double plays. Anybody else that I brought in there in that situation wasn’t as good a double-play guy as Framber. So that was a decision I made because I thought he was the best guy to get out of his own trouble.”

Even though the Astros are all too familiar with this October showman, the Twins initially didn’t seem to recognize the playoff asset that was in their own dugout. In Minnesota’s Game 1 loss Saturday, Correa was batting sixth and missing out on prime opportunities to hit — particularly while Minnesota was rallying and attempting to take the lead. Despite the demotion, Correa still performed, collecting a single and a double. But he led off on each of those occasions, unable to drive in his Twins teammates.

The Twins learned and pivoted quickly, promoting him to the cleanup spot for Game 2. The decision paid off, of course, as Correa went 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs. 

Correa discusses passing Derek Jeter, David Ortiz on playoff RBI list

“There are some guys, they’re giants in the light, and he’s one of them,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s always an excellent player, but when it matters most, it’s like he can really take his attention and channel it and focus it and just play even better over and over again. It’s not by chance. No, this is a lifetime of work in the making.”

That work fully matured in Houston and is continuing to manifest in Minnesota. What’s more, Correa knows firsthand how challenging it is to deliver the Astros with even one postseason loss on their own turf. But he’s here to eliminate them from the playoffs altogether. Considering each of the past five clubs to do so reached the World Series — and four won the title — it’s proven to be a task only giants could complete. 

Good thing the Twins have one on their side. 

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 

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About the Author

Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.