CLOCK IS TICKING

Forget what you’ve heard: Astros are on the clock to make a shrewd move

Pay the man his money. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Both sides have stated their positions clearly – no contract negotiations until after the baseball season. What sounded fair and reasonable back in spring is pretty one-sided now. Carlos Correa's bargaining position with the Astros is the sound of an old-fashioned slot machine hitting a jackpot.

The Astros shoulda, woulda, coulda given Correa what he was asking for last spring. Now the Astros will pay dearly for playing tough business guy.

Here's what should be done, even though it's unconventional and makes too much sense. Correa, his high-power William Morris show biz agent, Astros owner Jim Crane and general manager James Click need to be locked in a dingy Telephone Road motel room with no windows, the sheets haven't been changed since two guests ago, no room service, phones checked at the front desk and nobody leaves until Correa and the Astros have a new 10-year deal.

I don't care how much it costs. It's not my money. But it is my team.

If it takes till tomorrow, well, happy 27th birthday Carlos Correa – Baby, You're a Rich Man (great song by the Beatles).

Otherwise … there's just too much otherwise. The Astros are headed to the playoffs and they'll be playing on prime time TV (well, prime time in Australia maybe). If Correa is a dangling free agent available for the Yankees and other big-budget teams to pluck, you can imagine what the TV announcers will be saying …

"Houston, your star quarterback is demanding a trade, you just lost your star basketball player, now you're risking your beloved, homegrown superstar shortstop in free agency … what's wrong with you, Houston?"

Correa has hand. Correa doesn't need the Astros. There will be more than a couple teams pulling out their pens to sign him to a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Astros do need Correa, though. There's only one of him.

Correa is a shrewd businessman. He saved his best season for his contract year. You know the numbers: .285 with 24 homers. Just as important, and you didn't see this coming, he leads the Astros in games played. The knock on Correa was that he wasn't durable. He is now.

Correa is playing like a monster. It must be frightening for pitchers when Correa wags his bat ready to drive in a key run – he's good in the clutch. In the field, it's wondrous to watch him cock his arm before uncorking a 95-mph rocket to first.

Correa is the gem of this year's free agent collection, a better bet than Trevor Story or Corey Seager or Javier Baez. Somebody's got to play short for the Astros next season. Why not get the best one, and right now only the Astros can negotiate with him? If Correa gets to free agency, the Astros could be behind the 8 ball if another team, maybe the Yankees, says, "Whatever another team offers you, we'll top it by $20 million."

If the Astros make the World Series, the announcers could say, "Remember 2017 when the Astros won the World Series and Carlos Correa proposed to his girlfriend on the field? Well now they're having a baby and that child will grow up in Houston because Correa has a new long-term deal to stay with the Astros for 10 more years. What a fairy tale story!"

Or they could say, "In 2017 the Astros became world champs and Correa popped the question to his girlfriend. Now his bags are packed for another team."

Correa is the vocal team leader, the loudmouth in the dugout, the cocky shortstop who doesn't take crap from the other team. He's menacing at the plate, sensational in the field, a good teammate in the clubhouse and a role model in the community. The current Astros roster has a good three or four more seasons of competing for World Series titles. Correa may be the most important piece for that future. The Astros can't let him slip away over money.

Correa wants to stay in Houston. Don't worry about his "my last year with the Astros" comments. That's just posturing. Astros fans want him to stay in Houston. Agents and general managers know to the penny what offers will be out there for Correa after the season.

After the season may be too late for the Astros.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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