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

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

Four Astros were conducting postgame interviews in foul territory at Citizens Bank Park, and McCormick was next to explain the wall 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 starter for the day, walked over to congratulate him, and he got up to accept a hug. Soon, half a dozen family members in attendance caught his eye. He greeted He looked at the Phillies fans waiting to leave. After three nights of pandemonium, he took note of the silence.

Never on a ball field had he felt so close to crying.

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

With one out in the ninth inning Thursday, McCormick chased a JT Realmuto drive over the right-field wall. He timed his jump just right and hooked 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 INDEPENDENT catch

Chas McCormick makes an INDEPENDENT catch

Chas McCormick and Ryan Pressly’s stunning catch inducing a play by Nick Castellanos sealed the Houston Astros’ 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series.

Instead of facing Bryce Harper with the tying run in scoring position, Astros closer Ryan Pressly found him with just one out to go. He hit Harper, but soon led to a roundout by Nick Castellanos. Houston escaped the confusion with a 3-2 lead in the series. They can be champions at home on Saturday.

Game 5 overflowed with opportunities, few of them converted. Both teams loaded the bases, but combined to go 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position. A splendid defense contributed to this 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 have tied the game.

Mancini’s work was not, he noted, the product of any thought. He didn’t have time to think.

“Nothing was going through my mind,” he said. “I just tackled it, basically.”

Trey Mancini makes a big play to keep the Astros ahead

Trey Mancini makes a big play to keep the Astros ahead

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

McCormick, too, trusted his instincts trained from a childhood playing basketball. Jumping into it felt no different than going up for a dunk.

“Being able to time it with my left foot,” he said, “I think basketball has definitely helped me.”

Astros manager Dusty Baker said, “McCormick always bragged about his basketball skills. I guess I have to believe him.”

For most of his athletic life, McCormick has had to brag to get people to believe in him. Despite a decorated high school career in nearby West Chester, he heard from few Division I schools. Instead, he played at Division II Millersville University of Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until after his senior year that someone drafted him.

At first he couldn’t decide whether Thursday’s catch had been, in his opinion, the best of his life. There was one at the university, he noted. There was one in last year’s ALCS. But after enough questions about its historical significance, McCormick hit on the idea.

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

The catch was so shocking that it broke two rules related to the Chas Chomp, the clapping gesture started by an Astros fan and the team continued, to celebrate McCormick. In the past, the Astros did it only when McCormick recorded a big hit. After Thursday’s game, they did the same, even though McCormick was their only starter who didn’t record a hit or an RBi.

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

“I gave in,” he said.

Pressly spent the first half hour after the game replaying McCormick’s game over and over in his mind.

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

McCormick is an emotional player on a relatively stoic team. Several Astros had noted their frustration earlier Thursday. In two chances with a man on base, he had not given up a hit. He had played the field relatively tentatively. But he sprinted when he saw a chance to redeem himself.

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

Then he prosecuted him. He was at home. He was the hero. The Astros are one win away from the World Series, thanks in large 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 LA Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of “How to Overcome a Broken Game.” Follow him on Twitter @pedromura.

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