WASHINGTON, DC – Astros manager AJ Hinch had so little faith in Robinson Chirinos' bat that he pinch hit for the catcher in a big spot earlier in the World Series.
Seems unlikely he'd do it again.
Chirinos has homered in consecutive games, emerging as a most unlikely slugger for Houston when the team needed it most. A night after cracking a solo shot off the left field foul pole, Chirinos crushed a two-run drive to the seats nearby Saturday as the Astros beat the Washington Nationals 8-1 to tie the World Series at 2. Game 5 is Sunday.
Chirinos hit 17 home runs this season but showed no pop in the AL Championship Series. He went 0 for 15 in six games against the New York Yankees, and it wasn't much of a surprise when Hinch pulled him for Kyle Tucker with two on and two outs in the sixth inning of World Series Game 2.
Tucker struck out, backup catcher Martín Maldonado oversaw Houston's seventh-inning meltdown, and the team flew to Washington trailing 2-0. Chirinos said players talked on the flight about keeping it simple and not trying to do too much.
"No swings for the fence," Chirinos said.
Maybe he wasn't trying to go deep, but Chirinos hit Houston's only home run in a 4-1 Game 3 victory Friday and got to celebrate it with his son , David. He told his dad, "Nice job, good swing," and Hinch got the feeling Chirinos was starting to break out.
The 35-year-old showed it with a two-run blast off starter Patrick Corbin in the fourth inning of Game 4 that stunned a sellout crowd of almost 44,000. That made it 4-0, which was plenty of offense to support starter José Urquidy's five scoreless innings before Hinch went to the bullpen. Alex Bregman broke it open with a grand slam in the seventh.
Chirinos appeared to tweak something during his at-bat in the ninth but stayed in the game and doubled off reliever Javy Guerra.
Calling pitches in the World Series is a demanding gig — Chirinos estimates he has spent at least eight hours just watching film of Nationals hitters this week — but he's finding time to fine-tune his sweet swing, too. After joining the Astros on a $5.75 million, one-year contract to play for a championship contender in the twilight of his career, Chirinos has been working with hitting coach Alex Cintrón to hone aspects of his approach and mechanics.
The result was Houston becoming the second team and first since 1962 to have two different catchers — Chirinos and Maldonado — hit a home run in the World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Follow AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWhyno