Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa always shows plenty of heart. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is a defensive force. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer is still having fun in the Astros dugout. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa has a flair for the big moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer hit a home run — and celebrated enthusiastically as usual. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
It is only cutouts for fans at Houston Astros games at Minute Maid these days. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is brought down by Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly in the 6th inning of a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
New Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker knows how to command a room. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros pitcher Lance McCullers brings a fiery persona to the mound. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer is a game changer who recognizes Jose Altuve's unique gift. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa's defense is often underrated. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kyle Tucker does not believe in batting gloves. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Lance Berkman interviews George Springer at the 10th annual Breakfast for Champions benefiting SpringSpirit. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
Rookie Brandon Bieleak is one of the Baby Astros who is making a major difference. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Carlos Correa is used to rounding the bases. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and his wife-to-be Daniella Rodriguez shared an on-field embrace. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Maybe these 2020 Houston Astros really are cursed. Watching all-world shortstop Carlos Correa need to be helped off the field by teammate Josh Reddick and trainer Jeremiah Randall, unable to put any weight at all on his left leg, seemed to leave few rational explanations left.
For losing Correa would be the cruelest blow of all. Even in a coronavirus season that’s already seen ace Justin Verlander and closer Roberto Osuna go down seemingly for good (Verlander’s miracle comeback visions aside), and numerous other key Astros suffer injuries that sidelined them for significant stretches, Correa being unable to even stand on his own looms as the most haunting sight of all.
Correa is having an incredible defensive season at shortstop, approaching best in the game status as a fielder. His power largely hasn’t been there, but in this strange, short season it’s hard to tell what that even means. It would be easy to imagine Correa going on a hitting spree as the Astros fight for their playoff lives, too.
Now, he’s down. Astros manager Dusty Baker says that the initial X-rays are negative and that Correa appears to only have a bone bruise in his left ankle. If that initial diagnosis holds up, the Astros may yet dodge their biggest 2020 nightmare of all.
“He has like a bone bruise,” Baker says. “He took an X-ray and an MRI I think. And it’s a bone bruise. Nothing’s broken.
“He was scared. We were scared.”
And you didn’t think this Astros season could get any more strange or painful?
2020 had other thoughts. There is Correa fouling a baseball off his left shin/ankle area on Tuesday night, falling down to the dirt around home plate. He will not be able to get up on his own. This is the stuff sports nightmares are made of.
And the Houston Astros and Carlos Correa were suddenly living in one. For some seriously anxious moments. An already quiet, fan-less Minute Maid Park seems to grow even more eerily silent (pumped-in ambient noise aside) when Correa is lying there in the dirt. Correa is one of the fiercer personalities in baseball (one who head-hunting Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly fears if you listen to Lance McCullers Jr.).
But in this moment, holding his leg, Correa just looks devastated and disbelieving.
The Astros will go on to win the game, beating the hapless intrastate Texas Rangers 4-1. Alex Bregman slices a ball into the left field corner to score George Springer and Jose Altuve, breaking a 1-1 tie in the seventh. Catcher Martin Maldonado wallops a late home run. Surprise World Series pitching hero Jose Urquidy throws seven innings of one-run, three-hit baseball, lowering his season WHIP to 0.90 in the process.
It’s an important win in the scheme of this 2020 season, moving the Astros (24-24) back to .500 to kickoff this last crucial homestead of the regular season. But it means so little compared to the greater weight of Correa’s injury and the fact that it may not be as serious as it sure seemed in the moment on the field.
“It’s huge,” Bregman says of the bone bruise diagnosis for Correa. “He’s one of the best players in the game. One of the best teammates. You all have seen. He makes a diving play every single day at shortstop. He’s been unbelievable this year for us.
“. . . We were all very sad to see that happen. But it’s good news. Hopefully, he’ll be back out there really, really soon.”
The Astros should still make this supersized 16 team playoffs of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred‘s dreams with or without Correa. But how much less fun would they be if they got there without him?
Carlos Correa may not be the full superstar that many expect a No. 1 overall pick in the draft to turn into. At least not yet. (Correa only turns 26 next week.) But he’s still one of the more exciting players in baseball, a natural showman and leader who still seems to have so much talent left to tap.
Now, he’s hobbling around, with the rest of the Astros seemingly almost shaking off shock.
“I feel like we catch a break,” Maldonado says of the Correa potentially being soon all right after all.
“He was scared,” Baker says. “And we really scared. And everyone was praying that it was nothing more than a bone bruise.”
A Correa Miracle, Astros Haters Thwarted?
Any Astros haters — and there are many of them — celebrating the Correa injury should be ashamed. It’s one thing to call the Astros cheaters and gleefully hold up trash cans outside of empty stadiums. It’s something else entirely to delight in a potentially serious injury, something beyond twisted and wrong.
Carlos Correa does not deserve to be hurt — even if it does turn out to be much less worse than initially feared. No one does for any perceived sports crime.
Then again, maybe the joke is on all those Astros haters, after all.
If Carlos Correa really does turn out to be all right, these Astros could very much still be in play. This actually could be one of the first real welcome jolts of the season — an injury that looks horrific that somehow does not end up that way. Maybe, this rare bit of good fortune could spark a team that’s often felt like a shadow of itself.
First that five run rally in the ninth inning under the smoky skies of Dodgers Stadium on Saturday night. Now, maybe Carlos Correa coming back from a scary injury scene.
“Now, we’ve got 12 (regular season games) to go,” Baker says. “And looking forward to tomorrow.”
When’s the last time anyone around the Astros said that?
Astros cursed? Sure, whatever you want to believe. And maybe it’s finally broken, too. Wouldn’t that be a twist?