HOUSTON — The Astros should re-sign Carlos Correa.
If they don’t, though, it’s hard to see that serving as a Get Out of (No World Series) Jail Free card for their rivals over in The Bronx.
For nights like Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, as the Astros evened this World Series with a 7-2 thumping of the Braves in Game 2, illustrate the ridiculous roster depth that their deposed president of baseball operations, Jeff Luhnow, left behind. That his successor, general manager James Click, has enhanced and manager Dusty Baker has further grown.
“I’ve had some talented teams, but something always would happen along the way,” said Baker, who referenced the Steve Bartman play for his 2003 Cubs and some Nationals mishaps. “The difference between this group and some other groups that I’ve had is the fact that they’re always looking for something good to happen.”
Correa contributed a single in the sixth inning that helped push across an insurance run (and pushed Atlanta starter and loser Max Fried out of the game), going 1-for-4 (he also advanced a runner with a seventh-inning flyout) and he played his usual stellar defense at shortstop, registering a pair of assists while playing to the right of second base (thank goodness for shifts). All in all, a quiet if productive night for one of the franchise’s faces, who now holds a dandy 273/.373/.409 slash line for this postseason.
The Braves, meanwhile, committed a pair of damaging errors, the first by left fielder Eddie Rosario in the second inning and the second by second baseman Ozzie Albies in the sixth. And the other Astros took care of the rest.
Starting pitcher Jose Urquidy, who lasted only 1 ²/₃ innings in the Astros’ 12-3 loss to the Red Sox in American League Championship Series Game 3, hung around for five innings this time, limiting Atlanta to two runs and six hits and no walks while striking out seven. A quartet of relievers (Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman) combined for four shutout frames.
And in the lineup, Jose Altuve, going nowhere fast in a good way (he’s signed through 2024), homered and doubled, the former tying Yankees icon Bernie Williams for second place all time with 22 postseason dingers, the latter starting the night on the right foot for the home team, as he advanced to third on Michael Brantley’s flyout to the center-field warning track and came home on Alex Bregman’s sacrifice fly (man, this team puts on a clinic in making good contact) for the first-inning, 1-0 advantage. In the second inning, consecutive one-out singles by the sixth through ninth hitters — Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel, Jose Siri and Martin Maldonado — laid the foundation for a four-run rally, Brantley chipping in with a two-out RBI single (clinic!) and Rosario’s error adding an unearned run.
There’s no reason for the Astros, further emboldened financially by this pennant-winning campaign, to not be serious bidders for Correa, who might very well surpass the $341 million Francisco Lindor drew from the Mets as a non-free agent. He is beloved by this fan base and hung in there in the wake of the sign-stealing disclosure, providing a blend of accountability and defiance that enabled him to both acknowledge the team’s wrongdoing and convert it into fuel for future conquests like this one.
Yet if the Astros really wanted to be cold-blooded about Correa, or if the bidding by the likes of the Tigers or the Rangers reached a level that made them uncomfortable, they probably could keep going quite fine. They could shift third baseman Bregman to shortstop, where he has played before. They could engage on one of the less pricey free-agent shortstops like Trevor Story, a Texas native, or Marcus Semien.
Remember, nearly two years ago now, the Astros lost their co-ace Gerrit Cole to the Yankees, of all teams. And the Astros proceeded to last longer into October than the Yankees in the two subsequent seasons. The same goes for pillar George Springer, who left last winter for the Blue Jays.
Those examples shouldn’t motivate the ’Stros to part ways with Correa. They can, however, serve as reassurances — and as warnings to their foes — that their long-term future looks bright no matter what happens over the next few months.
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