The Tampa Bay Rays escaped from the brink on Saturday, reaching their second World Series with a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in San Diego.
The Rays, who had the A.L.’s greatest document within the abbreviated common season, at 40-20, had been at risk of becoming a member of the 2004 Yankees as the one groups in baseball historical past to lose a best-of-seven sequence after taking a 3-0 lead. But the Rays took an early lead and held off Houston, leaving the Boston Red Sox as the one workforce to finish such a comeback.
“The Astros had all the momentum; it was up to us to change it around,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash mentioned, including later, “What it says about the club is, we’re a really good team and we can withstand some lumps. All good teams show the ability to rebound, and we did.”
Tampa Bay’s solely earlier World Series look got here in 2008, when the Rays fell in 5 video games to the Philadelphia Phillies. They will face the winner of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves.
Though the Rays had dropped Games 4, 5 and 6, that they had cause to be assured in Charlie Morton, their Game 7 starter. Morton is the workforce’s most skilled participant, with 13 seasons within the majors, and he gained Game 7 within the A.L.C.S. and in World Series in 2017 — when he was with the Astros, of all groups.
He seemed sharp on Saturday, working 5 and two-thirds innings while permitting two hits and hanging out six. Randy Arozarena, the game’s breakout October star, slammed a two-run homer off Lance McCullers Jr. within the first inning, giving him his seventh postseason house run — essentially the most ever by a rookie.
“We’ve been facing some great pitchers and some great teams,” Arozarena mentioned by an interpreter. “But the ball’s looking good. The ball’s looking real nice to me.”
Catcher Mike Zunino added a solo homer within the second inning and drove in one other run with a sacrifice fly within the sixth — runs that proved essential after the Astros scored twice within the eighth on a Carlos Correa single.
The Rays additionally took a winner-take-all sport within the division sequence, eliminating the Yankees regardless of an amazing distinction in payrolls. The Yankees spend extra on participant salaries than any other workforce, while the Rays ranked twenty eighth of 30 golf equipment this yr, forward of solely Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
But they thrive with a deep roster of gamers with particular strengths, expertly deployed by Cash, who ceaselessly modifications lineups and pitchers to get the suitable matchups. The Rays’ hermetic protection repeatedly robbed hits from the Astros early within the sequence, and well timed house runs from their hitters gave them simply sufficient offense to win.
The Rays’ victory saves Major League Baseball the uncomfortable scene of welcoming the Astros to the league’s showcase occasion. The Astros gained the World Series in 2017, however an M.L.B. investigation in January confirmed that gamers had stolen opposing catchers’ alerts from a tv monitor at house video games all through the common season and postseason, alerting hitters to the approaching pitch by banging on a trash can close to the dugout.
The scandal outraged many followers and gamers, and while the Astros group was fined and docked draft picks — and the workforce’s former common supervisor and supervisor had been suspended and then fired — the Astros gamers weren’t punished, as a part of their settlement to cooperate with M.L.B.’s investigation.
They certified for the expanded postseason regardless of a 29-31 document within the common season, however couldn’t overcome the Rays — and Morton, their former teammate.