The Tampa Bay Rays had a shot to advance to the World Series and send the Houston Astros packing for the second straight night at San Diego’s Petco Park on Thursday. And for the second straight night, they did not get it done. The Astros have prevailed with a 4-3 Game 5 victory in dramatic fashion as Carlos Correa hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning.
Let’s dive in on the key storylines and things to know from Game 5.
Correa comes through in the clutch
The game-winner was a walk-off from the Astros shortstop in the bottom of the ninth vs. Nick Anderson.
Correa’s been possibly the most vocal Astros player this postseason when it comes to wanting to silence the team’s critics. After a lackluster offensive regular season (.264 average with a 92 OPS+ and five homers), Correa is now hitting .342/.457/.816 with six homers in the playoffs. Yes, more home runs in the postseason than regular season. He’s now two homers away from tying the record for the most homers in a single postseason (see the note in the Arozarena section below for more on this).
Further, Correa’s clutch exploits in the playoffs are notable. His three career walk-off hits tie David Ortiz for the most ever in the postseason (via ESPN Stats and Info). Correa also hit a walk-off homer the ALCS last year, coming vs. the Yankees in Game 2.
Astros’ bullpen game vs. Rays’ opener
What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked!
The Astros went with a bullpen game, which is just a game full of relievers. Luis Garcia started the game and worked two innings, he was followed by Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Brooks Raley (it was all rookies through this point, by the way), Josh James and Ryan Pressly. They got through the nine innings allowing just three runs on seven hits. All this with their backs against the wall.
The Rays used John Curtiss as an opener. That is, a pitcher who throws around one inning before giving way to the pitcher — usually of the opposite hand — who is designed to pitch the most innings in the game. That was Josh Fleming, who was usually a starter in 2020. Curtiss went 1 1/3 innings before Fleming went three.
Overall, it was a commendable effort from both pitching staffs. Lots of the big names were either unavailable of carrying in big postseason workloads.
Choi came through for Rays
The Astros took a 3-2 lead to the eighth inning, but then Ji-Man Choi homered to tie things up.
With a World Series trip on the line for one side and elimination on the other, the drama level was already high, but Choi tying things up in the eighth sent things through the roof, setting the table for Correa’s big moment.
Astros offense fueled by top, bottom of order
George Springer, Houston’s leadoff hitter, absolutely destroyed the first pitch he saw, giving the Astros a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
In the bottom of the third inning, after a Brandon Lowe home run tied things up, Michael Brantley came through with a two-RBI single. That’s all three RBI from the 1-2 hitters in the Astros’ lineup.
In a funny twist, the 8-9 hitters actually served as the table-setters for the top in that third inning. Josh Reddick singled and Martin Maldonado doubled before the Brantley difference-maker.
Before Correa’s shot in the ninth, the Astros had five hits in the game. Their 1-2 and 8-9 hitters combined for four of the five. Those four lineup spots accounted for all three runs, all three RBI and both extra-base hits.
Correa salvaged things for the Astros, but they weren’t in position to win without the top and bottom of the order.
Arozarena keeps going deep
Rays rookie sensation Randy Arozarena homered for the sixth time this postseason, tying him with Evan Longoria (2008 Rays) for the most home runs by a rookie in a single postseason. He’s only two away from the single postseason record, held by Barry Bonds (2002 Giants), Carlos Beltran (2004 Astros) and Nelson Cruz (2011 Rangers). Full story here.
We’ll do it again tomorrow with Game 6. The Astros are trying to run this thing to the distance after trailing 0-3 while the Rays are looking to avoid facing the possibility of joining the 2004 Yankees in making dubious history and losing four straight games after taking a 3-0 lead. The pitching matchup is the same as Game 1 with Blake Snell going for the Rays and Framber Valdez getting the ball for the Astros.
Of the 39 teams in the MLB playoffs to ever face a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, the Astros now join the 1998 Braves, 1999 Mets and 2004 Red Sox as the only teams to force a Game 6. Both the Braves and Mets lost Game 6. The Red Sox won out to make history. The Astros are looking to be the second team to do that, but they’ll need to get Game 6 first.
CBS Sports provided live updates and analysis throughout Game 5. You can read it back below.