Carlos Correa didn't mind the boos, he still had fun in his playoff return to Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa brought the fire, pushing the Twins to a Game 2 win with his old favorite Astros fans booing him all the way. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is making Jose Altuve and the Astros have reason to worry. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Is Carlos Correa pointing the way for the Twins to topple the Astros? (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is getting plenty of love from his appreciative Twins teammates. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros manager Dusty Baker is still almost always the coolest guy in the room. But he may have just managed his last game for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman and the Astros are used to the MLB playoff spotlight. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Chas McCormick and many of the Astros hitters looked a little off balance against the Twins. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is looming large in this playoff series between the Twins and the Astros. And Jose Altuve can't like what he sees. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa does a lot of teaching with these Minnesota Twins. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are two of the Core Astros, the ones who've been there for every step of this golden age of Houston baseball, (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jeremy Pena must step back up to the front of the line for these Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa always believes he's supposed to win. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
There is nothing like the pageantry of a playoff game at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve still brings a lot of enthusiasm to this Astros' winning machine. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Young Twins star Royce Lewis can change games with a swing or two. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman and the Astros have been caught off balance at times this season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve knows defense matters more than ever when the winning margins are slim. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa knows a big October would make him look like a $200 million bargain. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio is one of the true gentlemen in baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
There is nothing like the atmosphere at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley know there is nothing sweeter than winning together. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Twins, even their vets like Max Kepler (No. 26) are having a lot of fun. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Celebrating a big Yordan Alvarez moment has become an Astros playoff tradition. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa knows his Twins have an uphill battle against the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa knows that the little things can win big playoff games. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve will be lifelong friends. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is still doing his best to lead a Minnesota Twins team that doesn't know a lot about winning. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa sure sounds like a forgiving fellow. He insists that Houston Astros fans booing him — one of the original Core Astros who made this golden age of Bayou City baseball possible — does not bother him. In fact, Correa completely. . . understands?!
“They’re rooting for their team, right?” Correa shoots back when asked about the boos (near constant and growing louder every time he steps to the plate now). “I’m not on their team anymore. 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. They want their team to win. And they want me to strike out every time. It’s totally normal.”
If Carlos Javier Correa Oppenheimer Jr. (yes, that’s his full birth name) sounds more enlightened than the rest of us, his Minnesota Twins teammates will tell you it’s because he is.
Correa’s Twins teammates talk about him like he’s some baseball playoff being from another planet. Or maybe a different Marvel universe.
“I’ve said it before,” veteran Twins third baseman Kyle Farmer says when someone asks about Correa. “He’s like Iron Man. He puts on that playoff mask and he’s unstoppable. He puts on a show. He gets really locked in and it’s awesome to watch.”
Unless you’re trying to beat Correa in October. The Astros and their strangely booing fans got a look at what it’s like to face Correa on the other side of a playoff series. Correa smashes two doubles, adds another hit, drives in three runs, unleashes nearly a half dozen fist pumps and full-throated screams.
More importantly for Minnesota — and damaging to Houston — is Correa makes the Twins believe in a 6-2 Game 2 win that evens this perilous best-of-five series at 1-1 with the next two games in downtown Minneapolis.
Even Tony Robbins never built this many completely convinced devotees. Then again, if Carlos Correa asked these Twins to walk on hot coals, they probably would.
These Twins don’t question Correa or try to explain him. They just follow him.
“I think he’s just been there so many times,” Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers tells PaperCity. “He’s been there, done that. This is just another game for him. He knows how to step up on the biggest stage. I don’t know why. I wish there was a thing where you say ‘Hey, you do this and this, you can hit in October.’
“But he’s just able to not let the moment get the best of him. And step up the most when it matters.”
Correa has the Twins feeling loose and relaxed. He’ll take on all the boos (strangely no other Minnesota players are booed) and turn them into the soundtrack of another Correa October night. Everyone else can just play and be silly.
When this Twins victory is over, Jeffers and utility man Nick Gordon playful argue over the postgame clubhouse music. Gordon is not a fan 0f one of Jeffers’ slower more chill selections. In fact, he openly mocks the song.
Which just makes Jeffers crack up.
These Twins are like those first breakthrough 2015 Houston Astros in some ways. They don’t know how good they can be. And they don’t know that they should worry.
“In these playoff games, it’s who wants it more,” Jeffers says. “I promise you we’re not going to have any less energy than anybody else. We got guys like Nick G in there that are just hyping everybody up the whole time.
“It’s good vibes.”
This may be what should concern the defending world champions the most. The Astros are a modern dynasty, their sport’s most proven winner. Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Co. can certainly win big games in Minnesota, no matter how loud everyone in the Twins Cities seems convinced that Target Field will be. Game 3 Houston starter Cristian Javier is a World Series hero, dominant at his best. Going with either J.P. France or Jose Urquidy in Game 4 would bring more uncertainty, but nothing the champs can’t handle.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Astros centerfielder Chas McCormick says.
“They’re rooting for their team, right? I’m not on their team anymore. After everything I did for the organization, that’s in the past.” — Carlos Correa on Houston fans booing him
But there is no way for these Astros not to feel the pressure. They know better. As Correa alludes to with his noting of how team meetings these Astros have held over the years.
“We’ve got a great team on the other side,” Correa says. “I know what happens when they lose a game. I’ve been on the other side. I know the speeches and the meetings and all the stuff that happens.”
The Astros will be. . . stressed?
Booing Carlos Correa
Correa hears more boos from the Houston fans he used to thrill on this night. There are plenty when he steps into the batter’s box in the top of the first inning to face his old buddy Framber Valdez, the once (and still sometimes?) hotheaded pitcher he used to calm down. With sun setting a beautiful pink over the left field wall with the Minute Maid roof finally open (thanks to Major League Baseball), you could not paint a more beautiful scene.
Then Correa sends a baseball rocketing off the visitor’s bullpen fence in deep left center field, drawing first blood in a Game 2 the Twins absolutely have to win to stay in this series. With lifetime friend Jose Altuve standing right in front of him, manning second base for the Astros, Correa turns to his new dugout, pumps his fist and lets out a roar.
It’s both a familiar site and a newly worrying one for Astros fans. A reminder that a guy who lives for the big moments is on the other side. Carlos Correa knows what the Houston Astros are all about. And he thinks he’s the man who can beat them, give a little toppling push to the best dynasty in modern professional sports.
Correa comes into the interview room — another place at Minute Maid he’s very familiar with — wearing a flowing shirt and looking somehow intense but also relaxed.
In this Game 2, it helps that Correa has Pablo Lopez on his side. The young ace who’s now won more playoff games in the last six days (two) than the Twins did as a franchise in a just broken 18-year stretch shuts the Astros out for seven innings under the open Houston sky.
“In these playoff games, it’s who wants it more. I promise you we’re not going to have any less energy than anybody else.” — Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers
The boos did not make Carlos Correa get three hits. They did not help Correa outsmart Valdez and veteran Astros catcher Martin Maldonado in a crucial situation, with Correa just knowing that Maldy would call for Valdez’s sinker. The boos don’t make much sense considering how much Correa did for the Astros and Houston. Any other player would have left to get their first big contract elsewhere since it wasn’t coming in Houston (which still qualifies as a wise Jim Crane decision) like Correa did too.
Booing Correa is weird, but not what’s hounding the Astros’ chances.
No, that’s October Correa. Now the Astros need to figure out how to banish that being to baseball oblivion.