Carlos Beltran, With Puerto Rico on His Mind, Tries to Steady the Astros

Carlos Beltran, With Puerto Rico on His Mind, Tries to Steady the Astros


When Beltran arrived in professional baseball as a teenager, he would stand at the end of the line in drills and watch others go before him because he did not understand English. He was the Mets’ best (and best-paid) player a decade ago, but he was not an assertive presence on a team that came agonizingly close to the World Series in 2006 — Beltran took a called third strike for the final out in Game 7 of the N.L.C.S. against St. Louis — and saw late-September collapses the next two seasons.

More recently, though, he has asserted himself beyond the field. In addition to his aid efforts, he has prodded Major League Baseball into requiring that all teams have Spanish-language interpreters available to help Latinos speak with the news media and has chided baseball for not contributing more to the sport’s infrastructure in Puerto Rico.

With the Yankees, Beltran counseled young players — the team placed Aaron Judge’s locker next to his in spring training a year ago. He has done the same since arriving in Houston on a one-year, $16 million deal, particularly with the team’s young star shortstop, Carlos Correa, a fellow Puerto Rican.

So it was not surprising that in the aftermath of a 5-0 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night, a third straight defeat that put the Astros to the brink of elimination ahead of Friday’s Game 6 in Houston, Beltran was compelled to address the team in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

Photo

Beltran hitting a double off the Yankees’ Sonny Gray in Game 4 of the A.L.C.S. He is 1 for 12 in the series.

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Al Bello/Getty Images

His message: Forget about the last three days. Instead, he told his teammates, remember you are the team that won 101 games in the regular season.

It was not a fiery oratory, but a message that was conveyed in Beltran’s familiar manner: calmly and directly.

“Sometimes you see people acting different than the way they act in the regular season,” said Beltran, who could be playing his final game on Friday. “I don’t want people to feel down, and I don’t want people to feel sorry about themselves.”

Clearly, the Astros looked discombobulated. They acknowledged being unnerved by the Yankee Stadium crowd, their bullpen imploded and squandered a 4-0 lead over the final nine outs in Game 4, and their hitters, who comprised baseball’s best offense during the regular season, have been jittery in this series after clubbing Boston pitchers in the first round.

George Springer, the leadoff hitter, is 2 for 18. Josh Reddick, who usually follows him, is 0 for 17. Alex Bregman is 2 for 17. Brian McCann is 0 for 10. Marwin Gonzalez is 2 for 15. And Beltran himself, with a lengthy history of October excellence, is 1 for 12.

“From what I’ve seen, we’re trying to do way too much in the box,” Reddick said. “Everybody’s trying to be the one guy who can put the team on their back with one swing, and I think that’s one thing that we can’t really be too focused on.

“We’ve got to keep the line moving,” he continued. “We’ve been so great all year chaining together hits, one after another. We’ve just got to get back to that and quit trying to do everything ourselves.”

The Astros took solace in the fact that they had a break on Thursday. They hoped a return home — and an escape from hostile fans — combined with Justin Verlander taking the mound against the Yankees’ Luis Severino would allow them to relax.

“In baseball, it’s such a mental sport, sometimes you lose track of the success you’ve had, just because it’s so magnified in the playoffs,” said pitcher Dallas Keuchel, whose dominance of the Yankees was shattered in Game 5. “No matter what happened these three games, we were living a little bit more on edge than we were the whole year and we just didn’t play the carefree baseball that we usually do. We played a little bit more timid.”

Now, though, there is no margin of error for the Astros, who will try to heed the reassuring words of Beltran, who may have a voice in the clubhouse, but is trying to have a say in the series.



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