Carlos Correa belted a walk-off home run in the ninth inning Thursday, keeping the Houston Astros alive in the American League Championship Series with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 at San Diego.
The Rays, who have now lost two in a row, still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 heading to Game 6 on Friday.
The Astros became just the fourth team out of 39 ever to trail a playoff series 3-0 and even force a Game 6, with the Boston Red Sox (2004 ALCS against New York Yankees) the only squad to win a series after losing the opening three games.
The game-ending blast came off Nick Anderson (0-1), who had entered a tie game in the last of the eighth and retired all four batters he faced before Correa unleashed his towering shot to center field.
"Looking fastball ... (I was) trying to get on top of that fastball and drive it to center field, and that's exactly what I did," Correa said in an on-field interview after the win. "I knew it (was gone) off the bat. The ball is carrying in the daytime. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.
"I told (Jose) Altuve I was going to end it. I told Ryan (Pressly) I was going to end it. To be able to do it, it's a whole different story."
The walk-off win was the Astros' first this postseason, and the walk-off defeat was the Rays' first in the 2020 playoffs. Correa collected his sixth homer of the postseason, tying the single-season postseason record for shortstops set by the San Francisco Giants' Rich Aurilia in 2002.
The homer came at the end of a day on which Correa's teammate George Springer crushed the Rays' first offering of the first inning for a home run, giving the Astros the lead in a game in which they never trailed. It marked the first time in postseason history a team had both a leadoff home run and a walk-off homer in the same game.
"Carlos told me before he went up there, ‘Walk-off,' and I said, ‘Go ahead on, man,' " said Astros manager Dusty Baker. "Then I said a prayer to my dad and my brother, and I said, ‘Lord, please let us walk off,' because if not, we've got to use Framber (Valdez) and we don't have Framber tomorrow to start. Things couldn't have worked out any better at that time.
"That was as big a game as I've ever been involved in. That's one of the reasons that I came back [to baseball]. It's like you birdie the last hole on a golf course when you've had a bad day and you keep coming back. That was sweet. That was as sweet as it gets right there."
Astros closer Pressly (1-0), who stranded the potential go-ahead run on second base in the top of the ninth, earned the win.
The game was dominated by solo home runs, including three by the Rays, capped by Ji-Man Choi's game-tying bomb to lead off the top of the eighth.
Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena hit earlier homers for Tampa Bay, Lowe's tying the game at 1-1 in the third and Arozarena's getting the Rays within 3-2 in the fifth.
"Tough loss. Great ballgame. We've just got to get the bats going a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Three solo homers. That's really all we had. We've just got to turn it around."
All this came after Springer belted Tampa Bay starter John Curtiss' first pitch over the fence in left field.
After Lowe's homer off reliever Blake Taylor in the top of the third, the Astros went up 3-1 on a two-run single by Michael Brantley in the bottom of the inning.
Neither starting pitcher saw the third inning. Curtiss was charged with one run on one hit in 1 1/3 innings with one walk and two strikeouts. Houston starter Luis Garcia worked two hitless innings, allowing two walks while fanning one.
The Rays out-hit the Astros 7-6. Choi and Mike Zunino had two hits apiece for Tampa Bay, which led the series 3-0 before losing 4-3 in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
--Field Level Media