Carlos Correa’s walk-off homer in the 11th inning brings the Houston Astros even with the New York Yankees in the ALCS
Like an army on the march, a steady stream of Yankees pitchers, nine of them in total, made the trek out from the bullpen to the mound in Game 2 of the ALCS.
That was what was facing the Houston Astros on Sunday night. Finally, after four hours and 49 minutes, Carlos Correa sent the 40,963 fans at Minute Maid Park home happy.
The Astros, already down 1-0 in the series, chased Yankees starter James Paxton from the game after just 2.1 innings but then had to contend with a new Yankees hurler nearly every inning. Aaron Judge hit a two-run home run off Justin Verlander to give New York a 2-1 lead for the bullpen to protect.
Chad Green did his job, retiring all six Astros batters he faced. But when Adam Ottavino came in to pitch to George Springer in the bottom of the fifth, the Astros right-fielder hit the first pitch, a slider, 418 feet to left-center field to tie the game at two apiece.
The next batter, Michael Brantley, reached base on a wild pitch before advancing to second on Jose Altuve’s infield single off the glove of Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius.
The Astros rally, though, was snuffed out when Ottavino got Alex Bregman to strike out and manager Aaron Boone made the familiar walk from the dugout to the mound for a pitching change, bringing in Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle got Yordan Alvarez to chase a changeup for the third strike.
They wouldn’t get another hit off the Yankees bullpen for another six innings. The Yankees weren’t having much success against Astros pitchers, either, as relievers Will Harris, Roberto Osuna and Joe Smith combined to hold Yankees batters hitless for four innings.
The game went into the 11th still knotted up at two. Boone had emptied his bullpen, the only pitchers he failed to use being Tyler Lyons and Luis Cessa. The Astros, meanwhile, had used three pitchers in the top half of the inning to get out of trouble after the Yankees put two runners on.
J.A. Happ, usually a starter for the Yankees, had come in as the ninth pitcher of the game to get the final two outs of the 10th. He came back out for the 11th, and with the 180th pitch from a Yankee in the game, Correa hit a leadoff home run to the opposite field to end the game as the clock was striking midnight in Houston.
Correa is no stranger to playoff heroics against the Yankees. Two years ago, coincidentally also in Game 2 of the ALCS, he hit a walkoff double off Aroldis Chapman. His home run on Sunday was the first Astros walkoff homer since Chris Burke ended an 18-inning marathon against the Braves in the 2005 NLDS.
The Astros are back in the series, and with Gerrit Cole taking the mound in Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon, it’s suddenly the Yankees who are the underdogs. At least they have a day off for the nine pitchers they used on Sunday to rest up and get ready to do it all over again.