Culture / Sporting Life

Carlos Correa’s Shade Game is Beyond Strong, Yordan Alvarez Gets His Manager’s Backing and the Astros are Set — No Gerrit Cole in Game 6 is the Only Smart Move

Yankees' Lone Bronx Win Cannot Change the Reality of This American League Championship Series

BY // 10.18.19

NEW YORK — Carlos Correa pulls on a black turtleneck and about the coolest pair of shades you’ll ever see. These shades are tinted and almost wine colored — they’re worthy of a runway moment. The Houston Astros shortstop looks he’s ready for a night out in SoHo, not a three hour overnight flight back to Houston. But they’ll be no big Astros party in Manhattan, the East Village, Williamsburg or anywhere else in Gotham on this night.

Still, Correa sounds more than satisfied with the results of his business trip.

“We did what we came here to do,” Correa says. “Two out of three is a good series. We won the series in New York.”

And looked good doing it. The Astros appear to be baseball’s next dynasty for most of their time in the Bronx, outscoring the Yankees 12-4 in Games 3 and 4. Now, they just need to finish the series in Houston.

Yes, the Yankees are still alive — by the clang of Aaron Hicks’ first inning three run homer off the foul pole, which is just enough to beat Justin Verlander 4-1 in Game 5. But A.J. Hinch’s team is still in command of this heavyweight American League Championship Series rematch. And Hinch is managing like it. No, he won’t bring Gerrit Cole back on short rest to force the issue in Saturday night’s Game 6.

Did anyone truly think he would?

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Instead, the Astros will bullpen it in Game 6 and save Cole for Game 7 if it’s needed. This is the no brainer of no brainer calls. Rushing Cole back out there would almost negate the commanding cushion Houston built itself by seizing control of the Bronx. It’d reek of panic and uncertainty. Everything these analytical Astros are not about.

“We’re up 3-2 — we’re in the driver’s seat,” Verlander says after his seven innings ensure that Hinch goes into Game 6 with a full bullpen. “But (the Yankees) are stacked. We know these boys are not going to lay down for us.”

Yes, there still might be a dramatic turn or two left in this series. But everything still screams advantage Astros.

They have the ultimate trump card just waiting there — with Gerrit Cole looming for any potential Game 7. Just don’t be too surprised if the Astros bullpen, which has outperformed the Yankees’ much more hyped bullpen by a wide margin in this series, does not take it upon itself to win it in Game 6.

“That’s kind of how it’s been since I’ve been here,” Will Harris says of the Astros bullpen being underrated. “That’s just the way it is. That’s not a new narrative.”

No, just a telling one.

The Yankees survived — and prevented seeing the Astros celebrate in their stadium Friday night. But that’s all they did. They just saved the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium from turning into a champagne sea — with a cleaning bill to match. That’s it.

Aaron Judge and Co.’s bats are still not exactly sizzling. After touching up Verlander for four runs in the first — an inning Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos repeatedly blames himself for, feeling he should have called timeout to calm his pitcher down — the pinstriped army goes scoreless the rest of the way.

Aaron Boone’s team is not exactly surfing into Game 6 on a wave of wild momentum.

“I don’t know how we’re going to piece it together tomorrow and the next day,” Yankees leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu says. “I know we’re going to — today was a big step gaining confidence. And like I said, I don’t know how we’re going to piece it together but I have a lot of confidence in everyone going into the game.”

That is not exactly Gene Hackman’s speech in Hoosiers. Somehow, maybe?

The Astros clubhouse is very business like after this Friday night loss. Yes, the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year winner Yordan Alvarez — who is 1 for 19 in this ALCS with nine strikeouts — could use a home run like Apple TV could use a better publicist. But Hinch is also smartly sticking with his young big man bat, already declaring that Yordan will be in the lineup hitting seventh for Game 6.

You don’t run from the phenom now. Again, that’d be very un-Astros like. Completely un-Hinch like.

“Everybody in here believes in that young man,” Astros outfielder Michael Brantley says of Alvarez. “We don’t doubt him for a second.”

The Astros are not the team trying to hang on to their season by threads. They can afford to be a little patient — to act as confident as Carlos Correa in those shades.

Bullpen Mystery

Will Harris has been playing for A.J. Hinch long enough that he can usually forecast the manager’s next move. Harris often correctly calls out what is coming to Astros bullpen coach Josh Miller during the tension of these playoff games.

But even Harris claims to be stumped by the prospect of who will be the Astros’ opener in Game 6. “I would have said Brad Peacock,” Harris says. Until Peacock pitched the eighth inning in Game 5 Friday night.

Will it be rookie Jose Urquidy?

Joe Smith?

Could Peacock actually finish a game one night and start the very next night?

“My crystal ball is broken right now,” Harris cracks.

One thing is for certain it’s going to be an electric night at Minute Maid Park with World Series visions dancing in all the Astros fans’ heads. This is not 2017 when Jose Altuve and Co. limped back from the Bronx in a 3-2 hole and needed a commanding Carlos Beltran speech, an epic Game 6 and a lights out Game 7 to survive and advance. This time, the Astros come back in command.

It is their series to control. It is their series to win. No time like now.

After all, Correa is already ready to hit the town for something big. You don’t waste those shades. Might as well start the party.

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