Culture / Sporting Life

Carlos Correa Pulls Off Wildest Home Run Celebration Ever, Proves Gleyber Torres Isn’t Only Young Superstar in Epic ALCS

Walking Off to Make it a Series — and Bring the Astros' October Magic Rushing Back

BY // 10.14.19

Carlos Correa drops his bat, cups his hand to the earhole of his batting helmet and does his best to listen to the happy screams from his dugout amid the deafening noise of a stadium gone mad. And so begins the most epic home run trot ever, a tour de force from Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow’s first No. 1 overall pick, a player who’s personified the hopes of this franchise ever since.

Even before he crosses home plate, Correa takes off his batting helmet. He cradles it in his arms and then shoots it toward home like he’s Steph Curry flicking his wrist for a three. Astros outfielder Josh Reddick leaps in the air to catch Correa’s flying helmet and a moment later, the man himself is crossing into the party zone, heading into the happiest mosh pit ever.

When your home run celebration is more elaborate than the choreography of most Broadway musicals or a Simone Biles’ routine, you know you’ve done something extraordinary.

All Carlos Correa does is keep the Astros’ championship heart beating strong in October after it appears to be on life support for stretches of a long night. With one swing, Correa changes a series. From the real possibility of a 0-2 deficit heading to the Yankees’ Bronx American Horror Story to a 3-2 win in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Series tied. Hope alive. Bring on The Bronx Zoo.

This gut-check of an Astros win brings back some memories of that Game 2 comeback against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, when Marwin Gonzalez and Co. refused to let the Dodgers go up 2-0.

“There was no 0-2,”  Astros third baseman Alex Bregman says firmly. “It was never gonna be 0-2. We were going to win tonight.”

For that to happen, Houston needed another jolt of October magic. Correa is more than happy to comply. Correa sometimes seems like both an old and a young 25-year-old. It sometimes seems like he’s been around forever — and he’s suffered setbacks both scary (back trouble) and bizarre (the massage injury broken ribs). Correa’s certainly heard the chatter about other young stars having passed him by.

He watches Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ 22-year-old infielder, dominate Game 1 at his home park just the night before. One thing about Carlos Correa is that no one should ever underestimate his pride.

Or his talent.

“That’s just a great swing,” Astros outfielder George Springer says of Correa’s blast off a first pitch J.A. Happ 94 MPH fastball to lead off the bottom of the 11th. “A huge swing for him to come through like that. That’s our shortstop.”

For all the injuries and setbacks that have limited his regular seasons, Carlos Correa comes through in the playoffs. He now has 27 postseason RBI at age 25, the most in Astros’ frnachise history.

“He was born for October,” Bregman says.

Bregman says he started running toward the field as soon as heard the sound of Correa’s bat when it impacted with Happ’s fastball. Springer isn’t so lucky. He is putting his batting gloves on when Correa takes his first swing of the 11th — and misses everything but the party.

At least, it was one unforgettable party.

Carlos Correa’s Walkoff History

OK, Correa’s hand to his earhole and helmet flick is not Kirk Gibson limping around the bases at Dodgers Stadium or Carlton Fisk frankly waving and begging for it to stay fair at Fenway Park, but it’s an epic show in its own right.

“It was one of those moments,” Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos says afterwards. “He was celebrating with the dugout. I don’t know maybe he say something to the guy before him, like hey he was going to hit a homer or something.

“At that point, everything is set. Make sure the team celebrates. It was fun.”

Now, this series is settling in with an entirely new complexion.

It took the Astros nearly 11 innings to score their first run of this ALCS, it took them 20 innings to hit their second home run of the series. But they’re sure in it now, tied 1-1 with Gerrit Cole set to take the mound for Game 3 at Yankees Stadium Tuesday afternoon.

That’s what four hours and 49 minutes of sometimes agonizing drama can do for a team — as long as Carlos Correa ends it like that.

“You look at his RBI totals in the postseason,” Astros manager AJ.. Hinch says of Correa. “You look at his walkoffs, you look at the big moments. He’s a pretty special man.”

Bullpen Switcheroo

With all the NFL games and Succession‘s season finale long done, this game stretches on, turning up the tension with every extra inning. It gets late enough that Fox announcer Joe Buck says JJ Reddick when he’s talking about Astros outfielder Josh Reddick (not sure this Reddick can hit the three to Zion Williamson’s satisfaction).

Yankees manager Aaron Boone uses nine pitchers. The Yankees packed their ALCS roster with 13 to play this type of game

But on this night, it’s the Astros bullpen that throws 4 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, backing up Justin Verlander’s gutsy starts. It’s guys like Will Harris, Roberto Osuna (five strong outs), Joe Smith (one and 2/3 thirds of dominant results) and Josh James who make sure the Astros get the 33 outs they need to do something special.

“So far everybody we’ve played has had a better bullpen than us,” Smith deadpans.

Of course, the bullpen never matters without another bit of Correa playoff pizzazz.

When Correa turns a rare Jose Altuve bobble into the final out of the sixth inning, scooping up the ball and firing a laser that easily beats Yankees baserunner DJ LeMahieu to home plate, Verlander breaks into a big swinging fist pump. Correa just simply shakes his finger from side to side, almost channeling Dikembe Mutombo’s block celebration finger wag.

It is a huge play — requiring both razor sharp instincts  and supreme talent — and Correa delivers it to keep the game knotted 2-2.

“It says a lot about Carlos, how he takes pride in his defense,” Chirinos says. “He wants to be a complete player. That play right there shows it.”

This was a game with more twists, turns and sudden drops than a Six Flags roller coaster — with the thrill ride ending to match.

When your home run celebration is more elaborate than the choreography of most Broadway musicals or a Simone Biles’ routine, you know you’ve done something extraordinary.

Aaron Judge’s two-run shot off Verlander almost brings a collective gasp from 43.359 packed into Minute Maid Park. It’s not just a blow that gives New York a 2-1 lead. It’s a shot to Astros Nation’s collective psyche.

Of course, a Springer Dinger has a way of healing.

When Springer blasts the first pitch from the Yankees’ third pitcher (Adam Ottavino) into left center, it’s suddenly a 2-2 game. Boone tries to play the bullpen game that the Tampa Bay Rays played so well against the Astros. And Springer makes him pay.

Of course, it will be six more innings before anyone scores again. Six more innings where the Astros’ realistic chances in this American League Championship Series wobble on a tight rope. Six more innings before Carlos Correa grabs October again.

“I think it’s taken years off my life, that’s for sure,” Verlander cracks. “These moments are — I mean, just to — I think every championship run when you look back, at least from my experience, there’s always moments throughout the course of a ball game or series where it’s, ‘How did we win that game? What happened?’ ”

The Astros’ October magic happened. Correa happened. Right through a celebration that’s sure to live on.

“The adrenaline started pumping like crazy,” Correa says of the post walkoff, home run party. “I don’t even know what I did. I’ve got to go watch the video. But I know I was so hyped.”

Hyped enough to shoot his helmet — and bring the joy rushing home.

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