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On Baseball

Suddenly, anything is possible for the Astros in the ALCS

With one mighty swing from Carlos Correa, the Astros cut their ALCS series deficit to 3-2.
With one mighty swing from Carlos Correa, the Astros cut their ALCS series deficit to 3-2.Harry How/Getty

SAN DIEGO — Josh Reddick broke into the major leagues with the Red Sox when Kevin Garnett was roaming the parquet for the Celtics and that left a big impression on him.

So when asked before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday if his Houston Astros had a realistic chance of coming back against the Tampa Bay Rays, Reddick was quick to reference The Big Ticket.

“To quote the great Kevin Garnett, anything is possible,” he said.

It still is. Carlos Correa homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Astros again beat the Rays, 4-3.

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Tampa Bay leads the series, 3-2. Game 6 isFriday at 6:07 p.m.

As he went to the plate, Correa told manager Dusty Baker he was going to walk it off.

“I said, ‘Go head on, man,’ ” Baker said.

Correa cracked a high fastball from Nick Anderson over the fence in right-center to extend the series.

“I went on the field and said, ‘I’m going to end it,’ ” said Correa, who embraced Baker at the plate and didn’t let go for a few seconds. “It’s surreal, man.”

Manager Dusty Baker Jr. hugs Houston's Carlos Correa's after his walk-off homer Thursday against Tampa Bay.
Manager Dusty Baker Jr. hugs Houston's Carlos Correa's after his walk-off homer Thursday against Tampa Bay.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

Correa had two weak at-bats earlier in the game and went to the batting cage to work on his swing. Correa lined out in the seventh inning and knew then he was locked in.

Only one team in history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, the Red Sox in the legendary 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.

Prodded by third baseman Alex Bregman, some of the Astros players watched a highlight video of that series before the game.

The playoff-tested Astros have a chance with Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers lined up as starters. The Rays will go with Blake Snell on Friday.

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“Very confident we’ll be ready to go,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Had the game gone to extra innings, Baker was prepared to go to Valdez. Now his pitching staff is set up well.

“Things couldn’t have worked out any better. I had nightmares of going 15 innings or something. That was as big a game as I’ve ever been involved in. That’s one of the reasons why I came back,” said Baker, who agreed to manage the scandal-ridden Astros in January after two years out of the game.

With no scheduled days off in the series, both teams used openers instead of their Game 1 starters on short rest. Bullpen games are standard operating procedure for the Rays, less so the Astros.

The Astros met into the night after Game 4 and decided to start 23-year-old rookie righthander Luis Garcia, who had not appeared in a game since Sept. 27 when he faced two hitters in relief.

Houston's Martin Maldonado celebrates after scoring on a two-run RBI single from teammate Michael Brantley in the third inning of Thursday's game.
Houston's Martin Maldonado celebrates after scoring on a two-run RBI single from teammate Michael Brantley in the third inning of Thursday's game.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

“Hoping we can get one time through the order with him,” Baker said unconvincingly before the game.

That proved to be exactly what Garcia did as he got through two scoreless innings.

The Rays had solo home runs in the third inning (Brandon Lowe off Blake Taylor), the fifth inning (Randy Arozarena off Enoli Paredes) and eighth inning (Ji-Man Choi off Josh James).

Tampa Bay opener John Curtiss threw a first-pitch fastball to George Springer leading off the bottom of the first inning. Springer crushed it to left field for his second homer of the series and 19th in 61 career postseason games.

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Springer looked up as he approached the plate and saluted Astros third base coach Gary Pettis, who was sitting in a suite.

Pettis left the team last month to be treated for multiple myeloma and was cleared to attend the game. He lives in nearby San Clemente.

Several Astros said seeing Pettis gave them a lift.

The Astros scored two more runs in the third inning on a single by Michael Brantley, who was questionable for the game with a foot injury but was able to DH.

Tampa Bay had a chance to take the lead in the ninth inning when Mike Zunino led off with a single against Ryan Pressly. Pinch runner Kevin Kiermaier advanced to second on a wild pitch with one out.

But Pressly retired Arozarena and Austin Meadows on fly balls.

Houston catcher Martin Maldonado, left, hugs Carlos Correa as reliever Ryan Pressly celebrates with Jose Altuve after the Astros defeated Tampa Bay Thursday.
Houston catcher Martin Maldonado, left, hugs Carlos Correa as reliever Ryan Pressly celebrates with Jose Altuve after the Astros defeated Tampa Bay Thursday.Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Baker was lauded on Wednesday for keeping starter Zack Greinke in the game for six innings and showing faith in a veteran.

He used seven relief pitchers — the first five of them rookies — a day later to keep his team alive.

The Astros pitchers scattered seven hits, walked five and struck out 11.

“This team knows how to fight,” said Pressly, who got four outs pitching with a sore hamstring.

The Rays are 32 of 160 (.200) in the series with 57 strikeouts and only 18 runs. They are 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position the last two games.

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Rays pitchers allowed only six hits but five factored into the scoring.



Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.