HOUSTON — Carlos Correa broke the Yankees’ hearts with his game-winning homer in the bottom of the 11th to give the Astros a 3-2 win that knotted the ALCS at 1-1.
But the shortstop made his imprint on the game long before the blast, with an alert — and spectacular — defensive play that kept the game tied in the sixth.
With two on and two out, Brett Gardner ripped a shot to second off Justin Verlander that handcuffed Jose Altuve and bounced away toward second base. Altuve couldn’t locate the ball, but Correa raced over and pounced on it and made a strong throw home to get DJ LeMahieu, trying to score from second, at the plate to keep the game tied at 2.
The Yankees never scored again.
“As an infielder, I know how tough it is to catch a ball that’s a line drive right at you, in-between,’’ Correa said. “So as soon as I knew that it was going to crash in-between, I was creeping over. When it hit [Altuve] and I saw the ball go my way, I just went after it. And I grabbed it and when I looked up and I saw [third base coach Phil Nevin] was sending the runner, I thought, ‘Oh, I got this guy.’ So I threw him out. I don’t know why he sent him, but, thank you.”
Aaron Boone had no issue with Nevin’s aggressive move.
“I thought it skipped off further and it was an absolute send from where I was standing — I’m right behind third base there,’’ the manager said. “Great heads-up play by Correa, to be in that position, to catch it clean and then obviously with his arm, to throw a strike home. So I had no issue with the play at all.’’
Verlander had a similar reaction.
“The second I saw [Correa] coming over and make a clean catch of the ball and come up and ready to throw, honestly I thought [LeMahieu] was out. It went from, ‘Crap,’ to, ‘We got this guy, we got an extra out.’ It was just incredible.’’
As was Correa’s opposite-field homer to right off J.A. Happ that gave the Astros the win.
“I tried to elevate a fastball — which I did — and he put a good swing on it,’’ Happ said.
Correa beat the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS with a walk-off double to right off Aroldis Chapman that scored Altuve, also in Houston. He finished it again on Sunday.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to go over the fence,’’ Correa said. “The adrenaline started pumping like crazy. I don’t even know what I did. I’ve got to go watch the video. But I know I was so hyped.’’