“You just hope that he isn’t getting the yips because invariably, they come in bunches,” Baker said. “Everything comes in bunches: errors, hits, homers. I just told him to flush it. This guy has been awesome for us, but you’ve got to flush it and move on, or else it multiplies.”
After the two errors, Altuve responded with a strong throw in the seventh inning, but at one point he and Correa changed places on the defensive shift, which Correa said was to allow him to range wider in a greater space.
Offensively, the Astros hit the ball extremely hard several times but were thwarted by terrific defensive plays — not only by Margot, but also by Joey Wendle at third base and by Willy Adames at shortstop, plus several good stretches by the elastic first baseman Ji-Man Choi. The infield defense was so good, it even outshone Margot’s spectacular catch in right field, especially for those who had an obscured view of it.
“Joey’s defense and Willy’s defense were as bright a spot as anything going for us today,” said Tampa Bay Manager Kevin Cash, who could not see Margot’s catch from the Rays’ dugout.
Adames snared two line drives, and Wendle robbed Altuve of a potential base hit, as the Rays’ defenders helped the veteran pitcher Charlie Morton survive five scoreless innings. A former Astros starter, Morton said he has been the beneficiary of good defense for the past four seasons on both teams, and that included Altuve.
“It allows you to go out and pitch your game with reckless abandon,” Morton said.
He allowed no runs in five innings and became the third A.L. pitcher to win four consecutive playoff games allowing one run or fewer, joining Masahiro Tanaka and Whitey Ford, who did it exclusively in the World Series.
But Lance McCullers Jr. outpitched Morton. He struck out 11 and set down 14 in a row at one point, until catcher Mike Zunino’s home run in the seventh. But the Margot homer in the first was the decisive blow, even if all three runs were unearned because of Altuve’s errors.