HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Correa was back at Minute Maid Park, starring in the playoffs like he had so many times before.
Only this time he was wearing a different uniform.
Correa had three hits and three RBIs and Pablo López pitched seven shutout innings, helping the Minnesota Twins beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Sunday night in Game 2 of their AL Division Series.
Kyle Farmer hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who bounced back nicely after losing 6-4 in the series opener on Saturday night.
Game 3 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday at Minnesota.
Correa, an October star for so many years in Houston, is back in the playoffs after Minnesota stumbled last year in his first season with the Twins. And he is relishing his return to his favorite time of the year.
“It worked as motivation for me to, one, never miss it again and, two, be in the spotlight once again and be able to deliver for my team and feel that passion and love that I feel for this game and for winning,” Correa said.
Correa hit an RBI double in the first inning in Game 2. He added a two-run single to center in the fifth, lifting the Twins to a 5-0 lead. He also robbed Jeremy Peña of a hit with a terrific diving stop for the final out.
Correa has eight hits and four RBIs in four games this postseason, helping the Twins to three playoff wins.
He admitted that his big game Sunday was even more special because it came against the Astros.
“I would be lying if I said no,” he said. “It’s cool when you do it against your former team. But at the same time, the ultimate goal is for us to win the series. I’m focused on bringing a championship to Minnesota.”
Manager Rocco Baldelli raved about Correa’s performance.
“We’ve always heard all of the sayings and things, when the lights come on and the bright lights, there are some guys, they’re giants in the light, and he’s one of them,” he said. “That’s what he is. He’s always an excellent player, but when it matters most, it’s like he can really take his attention and channel it and focus it and just play even better over and over again.”
López pitched a gem after leading the Twins to the victory in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. He yielded six hits and struck out seven while lowering his ERA to 0.71 this postseason.
He kept the Astros off balance with a fastball that averaged 95.9 MPH, slightly up from his season average.
“We knew that today’s game was extremely, extremely important after losing the first one,” he said. “We came up with a good plan. We still wanted to be aggressive.”
Yordan Alvarez, who homered twice in Houston’s win in Game 1, cut the lead to 6-2 with a two-run shot in the eighth inning. But Jhoan Duran pitched a perfect ninth for Minnesota.
The victory gave the Twins a jolt of confidence before they head back home.
“We’re in the driver’s seat right now,” center fielder Michael A. Taylor said. “Honestly, we just believe in ourselves.”
It was Minnesota’s first playoff win on the road since a 2-0 victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. It was the highest scoring postseason game for the Twins since they also scored six times in Game 2 of that series.
The Astros had to hold off a Twins rally in the series opener, but they played from behind throughout Game 2.
Willi Castro hit a leadoff single in the second for the Twins, and Farmer followed with a 377-foot drive to left-center against Framber Valdez. The homer was Farmer’s first postseason hit after going 0 for 10 in eight career games.
Valdez departed after Correa’s clutch swing in the fifth. He was charged with five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
“The command of my pitches wasn’t there,” Valdez said through a translator. “It wasn’t working.”
Correa’s two-run single gave him 63 career RBIs in the playoffs, tying David Justice for third-most in MLB history. He celebrated by pounding his chest and shouting “Let’s go,” before pointing to his ecstatic dugout.
Correa received a smattering of boos from the home crowd each time he stepped to the plate. It was a stark change from the adoration he long received at Minute Maid Park in seven seasons with the Astros after being selected first overall in the 2012 amateur draft.
A day after hitting three home runs, the Astros had trouble stringing anything together against López.
“He was mixing,” Houston’s Alex Bregman said. “He was executing really well. He was really executing, so we have to do a better job of getting runners on.”
Their best chance to score against the right-hander came in the fourth. Kyle Tucker walked with one out and moved to second on a groundout by José Abreu. Michael Brantley lined a single to left field to send Tucker to third, but López struck out Chas McCormick to end the threat.
Edouard Julien drove in a run with a single in the seventh inning to push the lead to 6-0.
The defending champion Astros entered Sunday’s game 12-0 at Minute Maid Park in the ALDS since 2017, and the loss is their first at home in the Division Series since Game 4 in 2015.
UNDER THE STARS
The retractable roof at Minute Maid was open Sunday night for just the second time all season. Houston manager Dusty Baker said the decision to open it was made by the league.
After a brutal summer, temperatures have dipped this week in Houston. It was 73 degrees at first pitch.
Houston right-hander Cristian Javier (10-5, 4.56 ERA) opposes Minnesota right-hander Sonny Gray (8-8, 2.79 ERA) in Game 3 on Tuesday.
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