The Health of Carlos Correa could Prove Pivotal in ALCS

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

When healthy, Carlos Correa is undeniably one of the best shortstops in all of Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, he has battled through missed time each of the past two seasons. He missed time in 2017 due to a thumb injury that limited him to 109 regular season games, but the struggles Correa is facing this post-season are even more troublesome.

Correa has battled a nagging back injury that kept him out of action for more than a month this summer and continues to hinder his play. Since returning from the DL on Aug. 10, Correa slashed .180/.261/.256 with just six extra-base hits in 37 games to finish the regular season. Thankfully, the Houston Astros had enough firepower to go 23-14 over that stretch, but the team will likely need more from Correa if Houston is to take out the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.

The health of Carlos Correa could Prove Pivotal in ALCS

Simply having Correa healthy enough to be on the field at this point is a win for the Astros. He did finish the season playing consistently, but there’s no denying he is still in a lot of pain. Kristie Rieken with the Associated Press shared Correa’s comments on the nagging injury:

“Not only to find my swing, just to feel comfortable at the plate when I swing,” he said. “Because I know every time I swing and miss it’s going to hurt. So, I try not to swing and miss and then I try to baby my swing and I don’t swing as hard as I usually do or as quick as I usually do. So, it’s definitely been tough.”

As a result, Correa was one of the team’s worst performers during a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. He finished just 1-for-10 with three walks and two strikeouts. His lone hit was a three-run homer in Game 3 of the series, but that still gives Correa just three home runs since Aug. 10.

Houston’s depth vital to success

With Correa out or struggling for much of the second half, Houston has relied on its host of stars and key role players to provide the necessary firepower. 2017 MVP Jose Altuve had another strong year. George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, and reserves Tony Kemp and Tyler White provided key performances throughout. However, the big story for the Astros in 2018 was the development of third baseman Alex Bregman.

Bregman had a breakthrough campaign and put himself into the MVP discussion with a monster year. He hit 31 home runs, 51 doubles, drove in 103 runs, and scored another 105 runs, all while walking more than he struck out (96 walks to 85 strikeouts). The 24-year old showed he is a legitimate star and more than capable of stepping up for the team in big moments.

In the ALDS, Bregman, and Gonzalez, more than made up for the struggles of Correa. Bregman hit two home runs, scored five runs, and was on base nine times while striking out just once. For Gonzalez, he proved his worth with seven hits and five RBI. Springer also provided three home runs in the sweep.

Boston presents a tougher matchup

Cleveland simply was no match for Houston as the Indians were outscored 21-6 in the three-game series. As good as Houston’s offense was, the starting pitching was equally impressive with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Dallas Keuchel combining for 17.1 innings pitched with five earned runs allowed. The Astros bullpen also hurled 9.2 innings and allowed just a single run against Cleveland.

However, there’s absolutely no question that Boston presents a tougher matchup in the best of seven ALCS. The Red Sox have a deep offense and an impressive rotation led by Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Rick Porcello. It is hard to tell which team has an edge heading into the series, and Houston will need all its pieces ready to roll.

For Correa, he says he is focused on continuing to grind towards a championship despite his back:

“It’s been a tough year. But it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I keep grinding every single day. I keep trying to find ways to help my team. I thought my defense this year was excellent and I’m looking forward to winning another championship and getting some rest.”

For Houston’s sake, hopefully Correa and company can grind out a return trip to the World Series.

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