McCormick’s epic hunt stuns Phils and saves the Astros

Philadelphia — having vaulted against the right quarterback field scoreboard and got the catch of his life — could be considered one of the most memorable things to do, depending on what the Houston Astros do the rest of this week. Important in baseball history – Chas McCormick just lay there, back on the dirt warning track, feet outstretched in front of him, leaping into the sky.

He looked at the faces in the crowd and saw himself as a young man, a big fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. He saw the 14-year-old whose soul was shattered by the 2009 World Championship loss to the New York Yankees, only this time being the one going through all the pain.

“It was weird,” McCormick said. “It felt like a dream.”

Not so. The Astros, pushed by an unlikely McCormick catch in the ninth inning, are one win away from another World Championship. They delivered a gritty performance from veteran Justin Verlander, a stunning offensive display from rookie Jeremy Pena and two late defensive gems – first by Trey Mancini as a first base substitute, then by McCormick – to a 3-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Game 5 Night. Thursday.

Now they will have two chances in Houston to claim their first title since the tainted title in 2017.

“No compromise,” Verlander said after claiming his first win on his ninth start at the World Championships. “We’ve been in this situation before.”

The Astros recently lost two World Championships to underdog teams from the Eastern National League, first the Washington Nationals in 2019 and then the Atlanta Braves in 2021. It looked as if it might happen again this year, when the Phillies won 19 times. Fewer games into the regular season, he earned a break from Houston and topped the 2-1 series with a five-man barrage at Game 3 in Philadelphia.

But Christian Jaffer and three no-hitter dwellers combined in Game 4, and then a variety of others contributed to a decisive chain-swinging victory in Game 5.

It started with Verlander, who was edged at home by Kyle Schwarber, battled through his lack of fast ball driving and found his pass bar to contribute five rounds of one-ball runs. Verlander left the 2-1 lead thanks to Homer’s first and fourth singles break.

The Astros extended their supremacy to two rounds by the eighth until Jean Segura contributed one RBI song, breaking the 20-man streak at no-bat bats with the runners in the scoring position.

There were corner racers with one out, the Phillies lineup was about to flip for a fifth time, and Astros manager Dusty Becker went closer to him, Ryan Presley, to try and turn his first more than four saves out since July 14.

“It’s postseason,” Presley said. “You have to get out there and get out whenever you are asked to do so.”

Immediately tap Phillies’ hitter No. 9, Brandon Marsh. Next came Schwarber, the fearsome left-handed Velez player. By then, Mancini was in the match at first base in place of Yuli Gurriel, who had injured his knee in a frightening collision in the previous inning.

Mainly in exile, Mancini started his 0-for-18 postseason which kept him out of the squad. It’s been nearly a month since he had a first base match; Most of his preliminary work in recent weeks has come in left field, a position the Astros need so much.

“But that’s my natural stance,” Mancini said of the first rule. “I’ve been playing there since I’ve been playing T-ball.”

Astros coach Joe Espada on the bench, citing Schwarber’s inclinations, caught Mancini’s attention and told him to embrace the right line. Four tones later, Schwarber turned on the Presley slider and sent one hopper at 99 mph in that direction. Mancini put him on his knees and got on first base to finish the game.

“This ball gets him, we’re looking at a different game,” Presley said.

The same can be said about the ball that JT Realmoto hit in the next half. Velez were down for the last two games, their superstar staying on the slider from the outside corner 1-1 and hitting a road in the opposite field that looked ripe for extra bases. He could have gone triple, given the strange ways baseballs bounce off that spot in Citizens Bank Park. Bryce Harper was the next hot hitter.

“When you hit the balls this way, sometimes they stay here and sometimes they go in another direction,” said longtime reducer Velez and current Astro Hector Neres. “He was going to extra bases no matter where he went.”

McCormick, who claims to have been able to dip a basketball, runs 92 feet, combined himself and timed his jump perfectly, extending his right hand near the white bar marking the top of the scoreboard and somehow securing the catch.

Astros right-hander Kyle Tucker, who had come to support McCormick, released his fist in the air. He placed his hands on his head with a squeeze, keeping his mouth open as he looked outward.

Think “holy,” he remembers.

Unbelievable, said Mancini. “I thought to the bat it was Homer. If not, get away from the wall.”

McCormick, now 27, grew up in West Chester, 30 miles west of Citizens Bank Park, and attended college about a 90-minute drive away. McCormick continues to maintain deep popularity with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. All his close friends also continue to search for the Phillies. His catch made him think again about the one Aaron Rowan made against the Middle Field Fence in 2006, which bled his nose.

“This catch will never leave me,” McCormick said. “I remember watching this live broadcast on TV and it was amazing.”

McCormick saw anger, disappointment, and shock as he looked at all those faces in the crowd. About a dozen friends and family members were part of a crowd of 45,693 who were all sold out, and suddenly they all fell silent.

McCormick took it all. He lay on the ground, and stood still for a moment. He didn’t want to get up.

“I wanted to lie there longer,” McCormick said. “If it was the last time, I would have lay there all night.”

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