Friday's MLB: Late HR from Correa helps Astros top Bosox in ALCS opener

Kristie Rieken
Associated Press

Houston — Carlos Correa paused a few seconds at the plate, tapping the spot on his wrist where a watch would be, after hitting a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning that propelled the Houston Astros over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Friday night in the AL Championship Series opener.

“It’s my time,” he screamed before trotting around the bases.

That it is.

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa celebrates a home run against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in Houston.

And if his time with the Astros runs out at the end of this season, the star shortstop sure is making this an October to remember.

Correa teamed with Jose Altuve to do just enough to overcome the heroics of Kiké Hernández, who starred with his bat and glove for the wild-card Red Sox.

Altuve tied the game with a two-run shot in the sixth before Correa connected off losing pitcher Hansel Robles with two outs in the seventh to put the Astros ahead 4-3.

Correa, who has been with the Astros since being selected first overall in 2012, becomes a free agent at season’s end and it seems likely that he won’t remain in Houston.

Correa has a history of big hits for Houston that includes 18 postseason home runs, several of them in key, late situations.

“Playoff time, baby,” Correa said.

“We want to be in the spotlight,” he said. “We want to be in the moment.”

Hernández, who won a World Series with the Dodgers last year, homered twice among his four hits and likely saved multiple runs with two terrific catches.

His second homer came off closer Ryan Pressly to start the ninth and cut the lead to 5-4. But Pressly retired the next three batters to get the save.

Game 2 is Saturday in Houston.

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Ahead 4-3, the Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth when Hirokazu Sawamura plunked Martín Maldonado. Houston added some insurance when Yuli Gurriel slid in just before the tag to score on a sacrifice fly by Altuve that made it 5-3, beating a terrific throw by Hernandez.

Hernández has been red hot for the Red Sox this October, with 13 hits in his last four games to set an MLB record for most hits in a four-game span in one postseason. He passed Billy Hatcher (1999), Marquis Grissom (1995), Hideki Matsui (2004) and Randy Arozarena (2020), who all had 11.

“Enrique is en fuego,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

Chas McCormick singled with one out in the sixth before Altuve became the fourth player in MLB history to hit at least 20 postseason homers with his shot to left-center off Tanner Houck that tied it at 3.

Hernández opened a three-run third with his soaring homer to center field to tie it at 1-all.

Xander Bogaerts walked with one out and Rafael Devers singled. J.D. Martinez hit a grounder to Altuve for what should have been a routine play. But the ball grazed his glove and rolled between his legs to allow Martinez to reach and Bogaerts to score to put Boston up 2-1.

Hunter Renfroe then hit an RBI double to left field to extend it to 3-1 before Houston's two brightest stars came through late.

“Experience matters,” Correa said.

Altuve and Correa, connecting again for a team trying to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. The Astros also won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team's sign-stealing scandal.

Both teams leaned heavily on their bullpens after both Boston starter Chris Sale and Houston’s Framber Valdez were chased in the third.

Ryne Stanek got the last out of the seventh for the win.

“We stay in the moment. You win, you turn the page, you prepare for tomorrow. You lose, you turn the page, you prepare for tomorrow,” Cora said.

“We lost the first three games of the season to Baltimore, and we felt like Game 4 against Tampa was the season, to be honest with you. We’ve been living like this for a while, so we’ll be ready for tomorrow,” he said.

Sale, who was tagged for five runs in one inning in his previous start against Tampa Bay in the AL Division Series, permitted five hits and a run in 2 2/3 innings Friday. Valdez gave up six hits and three runs — two earned — while also getting just eight outs.

The Astros led 1-0 after Altuve scored on a sacrifice fly by Yordan Alvarez in the first.

For the next few innings it looked like it wouldn't be the Astros' night.

Houston loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Altuve struck out before Sale escaped the jam with a huge assist from Hernández in center field. Hernández, whose MLB debut came when he subbed for Altuve late in a game in 2014, sprinted to rob Michael Brantley with a diving catch in shallow center to end the inning.

The Astros had runners at first and second with two outs in the fifth when Hernández struck again. He made a back-handed grab in right-center on a ball hit by Kyle Tucker to leave them empty-handed once more.

Hernández even seemed surprised he made the grab, contorting his face into a shocked look after the ball hit his glove.

Closer to starter, Scherzer lined up for Game 1

Dodgers ace Max Scherzer got the last three outs in the thrilling Game 5 of the NL Divsion Series and is now lined up to throw the first pitch for Los Angeles in the NL Championship Series.

Yes, with only full day off in between.

“That is Scherzer being Scherzer,” teammate Cody Bellinger said.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he aims to start Scherzer at Atlanta even after the three-time Cy Young Award winner earned his first pro save in a 2-1 victory at San Francisco on Thursday night.

“He’s going to go out and play catch and get treatment and if says he’s good to go he’ll be our Game 1 starter,” Roberts said.

Roberts said his backup plan would be a bullpen game, with Tony Gonsolin one of the pitchers used.

Scherzer was 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA for Washington and Los Angeles during the regular season. He’s pitched 12 1/3 innings over three appearances in the playoffs, allowing two runs and six hits with 16 strikeouts.

Max Fried (14-7, 3.04 ERA) moved up as Atlanta’s Game 1 starter after Charlie Morton pitched on short rest in the Braves’ 5-4 clinching win over Milwaukee in the NL Division Series.