Thursday, May 30, 2024

2022 World Series: How 2 stellar defensive plays led Astros to Game 5 win

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PHILADELPHIA — Eight minutes after making the biggest play of his life, Chas McCormick crouched on the grass where he has dreamed of playing for most of his life. 

Four Astros were conducting postgame interviews in Citizens Bank Park foul territory, and McCormick was next in line to explain the wall-banging catch that helped preserve the Astros’ 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the 2022 World Series. In between, he had about a minute of solitude. Then Justin Verlander, the day’s starter, headed his way to congratulate him, and he rose to accept a hug. Soon, a half-dozen family members in attendance caught his eye. He waved. He glanced at the Phillies fans waiting to exit. After three nights of pandemonium, he took note of the silence.

Never on a ballfield had he felt so close to crying.

“I just felt like I was 12 years old,” McCormick said. “Being on the field, a quiet stadium, in my hometown, I was soaking it all in, trying to enjoy each second.”

With one out in Thursday’s ninth inning, McCormick chased down a J.T. Realmuto drive to the right-field wall. He timed his jump just right and snared what most here thought would be a double, triple, or, given Realmuto’s results here, even an inside-the-park home run. 

Chas McCormick makes an OUTRAGEOUS catch

Chas McCormick’s impressive catch and Ryan Pressly inducing a Nick Castellanos groundout seals the Houston Astros’ 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series.

Rather than face Bryce Harper with the tying run in scoring position, Astros closer Ryan Pressly met him with only one more out to obtain. He hit Harper, but soon induced a groundout from Nick Castellanos. Houston escaped bedlam with a 3-2 series lead. They can become champions at home on Saturday.

Game 5 overflowed with opportunities, few of them converted. Both teams packed the bases, but they combined to go 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position. Splendid defense contributed to that fact. In the eighth, Houston’s Trey Mancini, playing first base for the first time in four weeks, smothered a Kyle Schwarber liner that would’ve tied the game.

Mancini’s play was not, he noted, the product of any thought. He had no time to think. 

“I had nothing going through my head,” he said. “I just tackled it, basically.”

Trey Mancini makes a great play to keep the Astros ahead

Trey Mancini makes a tough play at first base to keep the Houston Astros ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2. They went on to win Game 5 of the World Series.

McCormick, too, relied on his instincts formed from a childhood playing basketball. Jumping for it felt no different than going up for a dunk. 

“Being able to time it up off the left foot,” he said, “I think basketball definitely helped me.”

Said Astros manager Dusty Baker: “McCormick’s always bragged about his basketball skills. I guess I got to believe him.”

For most of his athletic life, McCormick has had to brag for people to believe in him. Despite a decorated high-school career in nearby West Chester, he heard from few Division I schools. He played instead at Division II Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Only after his senior year did anyone draft him.

He could not at first decide if Thursday’s catch had been, in his opinion, the best of his life. There was one in college, he noted. There was one in last year’s ALCS. But after enough questions about its historical significance, McCormick came around to the idea.

“One of the best catches I’ve ever made, hopefully in history,” he said. “And it will feel much better if we can win one more.”

The catch was so impactful, it broke two rules related to the Chas Chomp, the clapping gesture an Astros fan began, and the team continued, to celebrate McCormick. In the past, the Astros performed it only when McCormick recorded a big hit. After Thursday’s game, they did it anyway, although McCormick was their only starter to not register a hit or RBi.

And, in an even larger breach of protocol, Pressly participated.

“I caved,” he said.

Pressly spent the first half-hour after the game repeatedly replaying McCormick’s play in his mind.

“I think I owe him a beer,” he said. “Or dinner.”

McCormick is an emotional player on a relatively stoic squad. Several Astros had taken note of his frustration earlier Thursday. In two opportunities with a man on base, he had not delivered a hit. He had played the field relatively tentatively. But he sprinted when he saw the chance to redeem himself.

“He took his aggression out catching that fly ball in center field,” Pressly said. 

Then he processed it. He was home. He was the hero. The Astros are a win away from a World Series win, thanks in significant part to a local boy who dared to dream.

Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of “How to Beat a Broken Game.” Follow him on Twitter @pedromoura.

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