Houston stays alive

Carlos Correa's walk-off homer forces Game 6 in ALCS

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With a win under their belt by taking Game 4, the Astros moved on from avoiding being swept in the ALCS and shifted their focus to Game 5 as they try day-by-day to stay alive in the postseason and potentially advance to the World Series. With Dusty Baker betting on his bullpen and not starting Framber Valdez on short rest, he tried to set his team up to be better positioned for the final two games. First, they needed to survive one more game.

They would do just that, in dramatic fashion, with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth. The victory comes on a bullpen day for both teams, and keeps Houston in the hunt for their second World Series in franchise history.

Final Score: Astros 4, Rays 3.

Series: TB leads 3-2.

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly.

Losing Pitcher: Nick Anderson.

Teams trade early solo homers to start the bullpen day

Luis Garcia was who manager Dusty Baker turned to in a critical start in Game 5. He would have a perfect top of the first, then was immediately given a lead to work with thanks to a first-pitch home run by George Springer to lead-off the bottom of the inning.

Garcia worked himself into trouble in the top of the second, losing command of the zone and loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter, but stranded all three runners to end the inning. Blake Taylor would take over in the top of the third but would allow a game-tying solo homer against his first batter. He would get two outs before Houston moved on to Enoli Paredes to finish the inning.

Brantley puts the Astros ahead in the third

Houston would get that run back plus another in the bottom of the third, getting back-to-back hits by Josh Redick and Martin Maldonado to start the inning, setting up a two-RBI single by Michael Brantley to make it a 3-1 lead. Paredes continued on the mound to go as far as possible, erasing two walks for a scoreless top of the fourth, then returned in the fifth.

Randy Arozarena would cut the lead to one run against him in the top of the fifth, hitting a one-out solo homer to make it 3-2. Paredes would face one more batter, giving up a walk, before Andre Scrubb would be the next arm out of the bullpen. Scrubb finished the fifth, then came back for two more outs in the sixth, giving way to Brooks Raley, who came in to face the left-handed-hitting Brandon Lowe, who he would retire to end the inning.

Carlos Correa walks it off to force Game 6

Raley would get two more outs, retiring the first two batters of the top of the seventh before Josh James would come in to finish the inning. Still 3-2 in the top of the eighth, James would stay in the game, but Ji-Man Choi would start the inning with a solo home run to tie the game 3-3.

He allowed a single next but erased it with an impressive double play to empty the bases. James would come up limp after that play, though, and Houston would bring in closer Ryan Pressly to try and get an inning plus. He got a strikeout to end the eighth before Houston's top of the order would go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. Pressly would get the four outs asked of him, working around a leadoff single in the top of the ninth for a scoreless frame. In the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Correa would play the hero, getting a walk-off solo home run to force Game 6, keeping the Astros alive another day.

Up Next: ALCS Game 6 between the Astros and Rays will be another early-evening game, with first pitch at 5:07 PM Central. While it hasn't been formally announced, it's expected to be a repeat pitching matchup from Game 1, with Framber Valdez on the mound for Houston and Blake Snell for Tampa Bay. The Astros will flip back as the visiting team for this game, and Game 7, if needed.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome