HOUSTON — Ruth and Gehrig.
Mantle and Maris.
Ramirez and Ortiz.
Altuve and Correa?
Maybe it’s just the fatigue kicking in after a crazy-long and just plain crazy night at Minute Maid Park. But is there any other middle-of-the-lineup combination in baseball you’d rather have right now — and in whose future you’d invest — than the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa? Especially when you consider their defensive value?
The Astros are one win away from securing the first championship in their 56-year history. From entering Altuve and Correa, their double-play pairing, into local legend alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The two men contributed the most offense to the Astros’ 10-inning, 13-12 victory over the Dodgers in World Series Game 5 at Minute Maid Park, during which they came from behind three times and rebounded from blowing their own lead in the ninth to grab a 3-2 advantage in this action-packed Fall Classic that lasted five hours and 17 minutes.
“When he goes out there, I expect great things to happen,” the shortstop Correa (who is hitting .308/.348/.585 with five homers this postseason) said of the second baseman Altuve (.344/.417/.703 with seven homers). “He’s the best player alive right now.”
“You want to know something?” Altuve countered, nodding toward Correa. “Most of the things I do out there is because of him, believe it or not.”
They can delight in each other’s company all they want. Astros fans can enjoy both of them for at least two more years after this, at which point Altuve can be up for free agency. What a ride it has been. What a future they share, the next stop Game 6 Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
What a dual performance in Game 5. Each man fell just a triple short of the cycle, with a single, double and homer apiece. Altuve scored three runs and drove in four. Correa scored two and drove in three.
Altuve’s fourth-inning single to left field moved the chains on the Astros’ four-run rally that wiped away a 4-0 lead that the Dodgers built for their starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. His three-run, fifth-inning homer to left-center, measured at 404 feet, off Kenta Maeda tied the game at 7-7, turning Kershaw’s night officially miserable. His eighth-inning double to left-center against Brandon Morrow gave the ’Stros their first lead of the night, 9-8.
Correa followed Altuve’s fourth-inning single with a double into the left-field corner that scored George Springer with the Astros’ first run. He followed Altuve’s seventh-inning double with a two-run homer to left that extended Houston’s (temporary) lead to 11-8.
In the 10th, when Alex Bregman’s single to left field off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen scored Derek Fisher for the walk-off victory, Altuve stood on deck and Correa in the hole, ready to contribute some more.
“We talked about tandem Abs and putting one at-bat after another,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, in discussing the top of his lineup. “We’re relentless when we’re good.”
As Altuve and Correa smilingly answered questions in the news-conference room, Astros owner Jim Crane sat in the back of the room and admired his two jewels. When they finished, Crane clapped, not a sound you typically hear in that setting, for good reason. You’d clap too if you employed these guys, though.
“They’re smooth. They’re focused. They’re confident,” Crane said of Altuve, Correa and Bregman. “I think they speak from the heart. I like to sit there and see what they have to say, but they’re poised and they deliver a good message. And I think that’s the message for the team. I’m just happy they came out on top.”
With Altuve and Correa as the headliners and the top producers, you can figure on the Astros coming on top plenty more, especially if they fix their bullpen this winter. What a pair. What a game and season for these guys. All that’s left is the coronation, and while that won’t be easy against these Dodgers, aren’t you excited to see more of Altuve and Correa no matter how it ends?