HOUSTON – Carlos Correa has built a reputation for dominant postseason performances and left a personal mark in each of the Twins’ four playoff games this month.
His heads-up shot resulted in an out in the first game of the wild card round. In the second game against Toronto, he was the originator of a key pick-off that helped Sonny Gray get out of trouble. Against his former team in Houston, he recorded five hits in eight at-bats, three doubles and three RBIs in the first two games of the American League Division Series.
As the Twins return to Minnesota for Game 3 of the ALDS (Tuesday at 3:07 p.m.), Correa’s teammates say it’s not all about the big games. His presence has an equally large impact on their success.
“A lot of the guys in our club maybe don’t have the most experience in the playoffs or in big games and big moments,” said Pablo López, who tossed seven scoreless innings in the Twins’ 6-2 victory Sunday at Minute Maid Park. “He is an amazing source of this kind of information. It keeps you accountable. He cares about honesty.”
The Twins didn’t see Sunday as the game where everything would be decided, but they knew that being in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series would be a real problem against the defending World Series champions.
Correa knew as well as anyone how important Sunday’s Game 2 was. One day, after saying the most important thing for the Twins was to give López an early lead, he delivered an RBI double in the first inning. Then, when he saw López between rounds, he offered him advice.
“He kept telling me, ‘Think of it as a 0-0 game. With each round you are getting closer». – said López. “There are a lot of things that no one sees. It keeps you on offense. Keeps you engaged in the game. You see what it takes to engage in the game for everyone to be like that. Carlos Correa is as good as it gets as a leader, player and teammate.”
The Twins continued to be interested in Correa after his offseason deals with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets fell through due to concerns about his medical. They agreed to a six-year, $200 million contract, the largest free agent signing in franchise history, because they knew what intangibles Correa brought to the team.
“Carlos is a special man. Special talent in thinking. It gives us guidance in every situation. …He thinks a lot. That’s what he lives for.”
After winning Game 2 in Houston, Correa sat in front of reporters at the postgame podium and all but warned what the Twins could expect going forward.
“I know what happens when they lose a game,” said Correa, who spent seven seasons with the Astros. “I was on the other side. I know the speeches, meetings and everything that happens. They will be ready to play in the next match. We too”.
Correa missed the final two weeks of the regular season with worsening plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He spent those two weeks preparing for the postseason.
Whether he’s condemning a runner on a wild pitch and making a deft call for outs – as he did in the first game against the Astros – or giving pitching reports to his teammates, he finds ways to stay at the center of it all.
“Carlos saw it [pitchers] a lot,” said Kyle Farmer, who scored two goals for Framber Valdez on Sunday. “You ask about his approach and that’s what we did [Sunday]. He prepared a good approach for us and we worked through it.”
Donovan Solano added: “In the playoffs, I feel like I’m seeing the next Carlos. He is prepared for these moments. We are inspired by the fact that we can do something special this year, something we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
When Correa entered the field on Sunday with the bases loaded, he knew exactly how Valdez and catcher Martín Maldonado wanted to attack him. Correa placed a low sinker, one below the strike zone, in center field for two singles.
“Carlos is a special man,” Solano said. “Exceptional talent for thinking. It gives us guidance in every situation. He was even prepared for the pick-off with Sonny. He thinks a lot. That’s what he lives for.”
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