The Tampa Bay Rays had a shot to advance to the World Series and send the Houston Astros packing for the second straight night at San Diego’s Petco Park on Thursday. And for the second straight night, they did not get it done. The Astros have prevailed with a 4-3 Game 5 victory in dramatic fashion as Carlos Correa hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning.
Let’s dive in on the key storylines and things to know from Game 5.
Correa comes through in the clutch
The game-winner was a walk-off from the Astros shortstop in the bottom of the ninth vs. Nick Anderson.
Correa’s been possibly the most vocal Astros player this postseason when it comes to wanting to silence the team’s critics. After a lackluster offensive regular season (.264 average with a 92 OPS+ and five homers), Correa is now hitting .342/.457/.816 with six homers in the playoffs. Yes, more home runs in the postseason than regular season. He’s now two homers away from tying the record for the most homers in a single postseason (see the note in the Arozarena section below for more on this).
Further, Correa’s clutch exploits in the playoffs are notable. His three career walk-off hits tie David Ortiz for the most ever in the postseason (via ESPN Stats and Info). Correa also hit a walk-off homer the ALCS last year, coming vs. the Yankees in Game 2.
Astros’ bullpen game vs. Rays’ opener
What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked!
The Astros went with a bullpen game, which is just a game full of relievers. Luis Garcia started the game and worked two innings, he was followed by Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Brooks Raley (it was all rookies through this point, by the way), Josh James and Ryan Pressly. They got through the nine innings allowing just three runs on seven hits. All this with their backs against the wall.
The Rays used John Curtiss as an opener. That is, a pitcher who throws around one inning before giving way to the pitcher — usually of the opposite hand — who is designed to pitch the most innings in the game. That was Josh Fleming, who was usually a starter in 2020. Curtiss went 1 1/3 innings before Fleming went three.
Overall, it was a commendable effort from both pitching staffs. Lots of the big names were either unavailable of carrying in big postseason workloads.
Choi came through for Rays
The Astros took a 3-2 lead to the eighth inning, but then Ji-Man Choi homered to tie things up.
With a World Series trip on the line for one side and elimination on the other, the drama level was already high, but Choi tying things up in the eighth sent things through the roof, setting the table for Correa’s big moment.
Astros offense fueled by top, bottom of order
George Springer, Houston’s leadoff hitter, absolutely destroyed the first pitch he saw, giving the Astros a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.