One of the great historical debates in baseball is whether Babe Ruth really did call his shot in the 1932 World Series.
Correa hammered a home run to center field with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting Houston to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night in San Diego. As it turns out, while he might not have pointed toward the grandstand as Ruth was said to have done, Correa did exactly what he told Astros manager Dusty Baker he would do.
"Boy, that was very crucial," Baker said. "I mean, Carlos told me before he went up there, he goes, 'Walk-off.' I said, 'Go ahead on, man.'"
Correa turned around a 96 mph fastball from Rays closer Nick Anderson and deposited a 416-foot drive to center, as outfielder Kevin Kiermaier climbed the fence and watched helplessly as the ball sailed over his head. Correa walked slowly toward first base as the ball disappeared and finally started jogging as his teammates poured out of the dugout.
While admitting he predicted the home run, Correa said it wasn't bravado but a bit of in-game advice that made him so confident.
"Anderson is a great pitcher and I don't mean no disrespect when I call my shot," Correa said. "It's just that after my second at-bat, I went in the cage. [Hitting coach Alex] Cintron called me and told me a couple of things that made my swing feel great."
Correa added that after the adjustment everything clicked.
"I was like, 'Wow, this feels good,'" he said. "So when I went into that at-bat, I told [Jose] Altuve walking off the field, I said, 'I'm going to end it.'"
The home run was a fitting finish for a Houston club making history with each victory after dropping the first three games of the series. The Astros are only the fourth of 38 teams in postseason history to force a sixth game after falling into a 3-0 series hole. Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have forced a seventh game in such scenarios; they beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS before winning their long-awaited World Series.
That wasn't the only history Correa and his teammates made.
His homer on the game's final pitch bookended George Springer, who homered to lead off the game on the first pitch from Rays opener John Curtiss. Thus, the Astros became the first team to hit a leadoff homer and a game-ending homer in the same playoff game.
"I told George yesterday before the game, 'You go and we go,'" Correa said.
Springer and Correa have now homered in the same postseason game eight times, twice as often as any other duo in baseball history. When Correa finally completed his 11-second jog around the bases, bedlam broke out at home plate as the Astros celebrated another day of staving off elimination.
"Everybody's just jumping up and down, and pouring ice," Baker said. "Carlos was going crazy as he usually does when he does something spectacular like that. I was just grateful and thankful and happy all at the same time. We get to play another day."
Correa, who became the third player to hit two game-ending homers in postseason history (David Ortiz, Bernie Williams), called the celebration "surreal." He and Baker enjoyed an extended embrace, during which Correa admitted that he said, "I f---ing told you."
As for the Rays, it was an abrupt turnaround after Tampa Bay had tied the contest on Ji-Man Choi's eighth-inning homer, putting the Rays on the brink of finishing the series and winning the AL pennant for just the second time in franchise history. Instead, after Correa's called shot, Tampa Bay is venturing into the territory of some history the club does not want to make.
"You go from feeling really good about your chances to knowing the game was over a short time after that," Kiermaier said. "They played a little bit better than us today, and it came down to one swing.
"We got a 3-2 lead [in the series]; they have a little bit of momentum on their side. But we know if we come out and handle our business tomorrow, we should be in good shape."