(San Diego) Impressive rookie Randy Arozarena slammed a two-run homer in the first inning and the Tampa Bay Rays finally knocked out the Houston Astros with a 4-2 victory on Saturday night.
The Rays let slip a 3-0 lead in the American championship series, but were transported by Arozarena to reach the World Series for the first time since 2008. The Astros were looking to become the second team in the league. Majors' history, after the Boston Red Sox in 2004, to win a series after trailing 0-3.
“I've never had more fun playing baseball than this year with this group of players,” said Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Despite everything we have been through, with the pandemic and the camps, we did not collapse. We continued to fight. "
The Tampa Bay team are now awaiting the winner of the duel between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will face off in a final game on Sunday night. The World Series kicks off Tuesday at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers.
“You're in the vault and you are watching this group of players. I always say there aren't any big stars out there, but players are starting to make a name for themselves right now, Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. If you don't know the names yet, I advise you to learn them. "
Arozarena hit his fourth long ball in seven games against the Astros and a seventh since the start of the playoffs. He edged former Rays Evan Longoria for the most homers by a rookie in the same series. He was unsurprisingly named the Championship Series MVP. The 25-year-old Arozarena will also have the opportunity to continue chasing two major playoff records, for highest total homers (eight) and most hits by a rookie (22).
Mike Zunino also contributed offensively for the Rays. He hit a solo slap in the second inning and produced a run after a sacrifice in the sixth. These two points made the difference when the Astros tried to orchestrate a comeback late in the game.
Starter Charlie Morton seemed in full control when Rays manager Kevin Cash decided to trust his relief. Morton allowed just two hits and a walk in five and two-thirds innings on the mound. He hasn't allowed a run in two starts against the Astros in that series. The reliever Nick Anderson, who gave Correa a winning homer in the ninth inning in Game 5, was charged two points for the Texan team. Peter Fairbanks put an end to the threat in the eighth inning and scored a first save in the series when Manuel Margot caught a candle from Aledmys Diaz.
“Cash made the right decision again. What a shock, ”joked Rays ace Tyler Glasnow, who is expected to start on Tuesday. Lance McCullers Jr., who faced Morton in the second game of the series, was once again supplanted by his former teammate. McCullers allowed three runs, four hits and a walk in three and two-thirds innings for the Astros.
Under new manager Dusty Baker, the Astros were looking to advance to the World Series for the third time in four years. They had notably lost in seven duels against the Washington Nationals in 2019.
Things got off to a bad start, however, when McCullers hit the Rays first hitter, Margot. Arozarena paid for this error by sending a drop ball over the fence in center field.
In the second inning, Zunino extended the Rays lead to 3-0 with a solo homerun against McCullers. He also slammed a long ball against the Astros pitcher in Game 2 of that series.
Dusty Baker's men showed signs of life in the eighth inning as they trailed 4-0. After two outs, and with Diaz on second base, Jose Altuve hit a single and Michael Brantley walked out to fill the trails. Correa hit a two-run single against Fairbanks, but Alex Bregman was struck out on three strikes.
The Astros put up a runner on base in the ninth inning, but Josh Reddick and Diaz were unable to tie the game with just one stick.
“There are a lot of fighters on this team and it's impressive to see all their persistence,” said Baker. One thing is certain, we will return to this position next year. "