SAN DIEGO – Before Carlos Correa headed to the plate in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, he told Dusty Baker, “Walkoff."
The 71-year-old manager replied, “Go ahead, man," and then said a quick prayer to his father and brother.
If the Houston Astros had been forced to go extra innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, Baker thought, he’d have to burn Framber Valdéz, his projected Game 6 starter.
Baker’s prayer was answered with a loud crack.
Correa homered with one out in the ninth, and the Astros beat the Rays 4-3 Thursday behind sensational pitching from five rookies, closing to 3-2 in the series.
Correa drove a fastball at the letters from Nick Anderson just past the palm trees to the right of the batter's eye at Petco Park, watched the ball for a few steps and then flung his bat. He was greeted at home by his ecstatic teammates and had a long hug with Baker.
“I don't mean no disrespect when I call my shot," said Correa, who added that he went to the indoor cage after his second and third at-bats to work with hitting coach Alex Cintron and make adjustments.
“We felt it and it was like, ‘Wow. This feels good,'" the shortstop said.