Carlos Correa is back in Houston and trying to knock the Astros out of the playoffs. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Astros put in the extra work on defense. Always. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
JJeremy Pena is determined to be better next season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dusty Baker could be managing his last October. And he plans to make the most of it. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa knows that the little things can win big playoff games. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros outfielder Chas McCormick isn't afraid of a little dirt or putting in the work. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander started another Game 1 for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Reggie Jackson is looking to see the Astros navigate another October. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa doesn't want to be looking up at the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Royce Lewis is one of the Twins young stars on the rise. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are having very different seasons. And Altuve's greatness for the Houston Astros is unmistakable. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros closer Ryan Pressly brings plenty of intensity to the mound. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa made sure his young son Kylo and his wife Daniella were part of his Houston return moment too. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
It's the playoffs and Major League Baseball is a faster and better game. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dallas Keuchel is one of the former Astros coming home to Houston with the Twins. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Chas McCormick is swinging for impact with these Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has Minnesota finally winning in the playoffs. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Ryan Pressly appreciates every save he gets for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa was a lifeline of this Astros runs in many ways. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Chas McCormick still remembers the defensive talk, the little things talk, that Carlos Correa gave the Houston Astros early in McCormick’s run with the team. Correa has a way of making his talks hit home and all these years later, with Correa a Minnesota Twin and McCormick having established himself as a Big League starter, this one carries more weight than ever.
“The little things in playoffs are huge — especially at the Big League level,” McCormick tells PaperCity. “I remember even Correa talking about it my rookie year in the World Series. Throughout the year and playoffs, just how important defense was. How important knowing the next pitch (on defense), where to go. The situation.
“So those little things are huge. Because those can cost you games.”
Correa is reminding his young Minnesota Twins teammates of that these days. And as the Twins try and knock off the defending world champion Astros in a best of five division series that starts at Minute Maid Park Saturday afternoon, that little things mantra looms larger than ever. The Wildcard Round swung on big little things in many ways.
Toronto Blue Jays superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. getting picked off second base (by Correa and Twins starter Sonny Gray no less) became the defining moment of that Twins sweep in many ways. (And if it’s not the defining play, Correa barehanding the ball to throw out Bo Bichette at the plate is). Tampa Bay Rays stumbling in the outfield helped usher the Texas Rangers into the final eight.
This golden age of Houston baseball has seen the Astros win games and swing series by excelling at things other teams didn’t pay close enough attention to or foolishly dismissed. See the near Florida sink hole-sized gap between the defense of the Astros and the defense of the Phillies in last fall’s World Series.
Correa helped build that emphasis during his seven seasons with the Astros. He’d remind his teammates of it numerous times throughout a season. Don’t forget the little things.
Which of course aren’t really little things at all. Especially not in the playoffs. When every moment is magnified.
“We do that well as a team though,” McCormick says. “. . . In the playoffs we know how to prepare. We know how to work.”
Correa knows what the Twins are getting into more than anybody. Back in Houston’s Juice Box on the eve of Saturday’s Game 1, Correa notes that he’s had no real contact with his ex-teammates — many of remain some of his closest friends like catcher Martin Maldonado — since some congratulatory texts the night Correa’s Twins advanced.
“Right now, when we cross those lines, there’s no relationship at all,” Correa says. “There’s just win or lose. I want to make sure my team is on the winning side.”
Correa has to say this in many ways. Not the least of which is the Twins are committed to paying him $200 million. And yes, there would be nothing sweeter to him than knocking Jim Crane’s Astros out of the playoffs. But you can also hear the real love in his voice when he once again advocates for Jose Altuve.
“He’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day,” Correa says. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s special. He’s helped this organization get to the two championships that they’ve won.
“And he’s been a big part of everything that’s been accomplished here in Houston.”
“The little things in playoffs are huge — especially at the Big League level. I remember even Correa talking about it my rookie year in the World Series.” — Astros outfielder Chas McCormick
Carlos Correa wants the Twins to win this series. But he will also do anything he can to make sure Altuve, whose should be surefire Hall of Fame future will be challenged by the often-uneducated furor over the Astros electronic sign stealing scandal, gets his due.
That’s no little thing.
Carlos Correa and The Power of the Big Little Things
Correa didn’t just mentor current Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña, who won World Series MVP honors as a rookie. He talked to and influenced so many of the current Houston players, including McCormick. He stood up in front of his teammates and preached the power of defense, base running, smart decision making. On cutoff throws and more.
These aren’t little things. They’re bricks in a dynasty. Building blocks that continue to endure.
Now Carlos Correa is preaching about the power of those big little things to the Twins. Putting in the habits that may just give Minnesota a real chance to knock off the champs. Depending on how quickly Royce Lewis and Co. can learn.
“The behind the scenes stuff he does for our league. Our team,” Lewis, the 24-year-old who hit two home runs in the first game of the Wildcard round, says of Correa. “For the young guys, he’s like an older brother to all of us.
“Sometimes he could be your dad too. Because he’s pretty firm. He really takes care of us. And he loves us. He does everything for this team. He gives his whole body, mind, effort to this team. It’s like 120 percent of Carlos is in this team, and I think that’s why we’re here right now.”
Carlos Correa always has been comfortable standing in from of an entire room and spreading a vision. Building on it.
The Minnesota Twins are getting the speech now, certain that Correa knows the way. But the Astros have already proved they can get there.