ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays eliminate Houston Astros, reach World Series

Oct. 18 (UPI) — The Tampa Bay Rays held off the Houston Astros to earn a 4-2 win in Saturday’s Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

Randy Arozarena continued his hot hitting and starter Charlie Morton dazzled across 5 2/3 innings to push the Rays into the Fall Classic for the first time since 2008. Tampa Bay lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games that year.

The Rays will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves in the World Series, which starts Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. The National League Championship Series is tied at three games, with Game 7 set for Sunday night.

“You sit here and look at this group of guys, and I always say we don’t have a lot of household names, but at the same time, people are making a name for themselves right now,” Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “And if you don’t know the name by now, they better learn them, because we’ve got some boys who can play.”

The Astros’ spirited comeback in the ALCS ultimately fell short despite a late push in the series and the deciding game. Houston fell into a 3-0 hole, but battled back to force a Game 7 as the club attempted to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

Arozarena put the Rays in front with a two-run home run in the first. The rookie outfielder’s 416-foot shot was his seventh of the postseason, a new record for a rookie in the playoffs. In the second inning, Mike Zunino blasted a 430-foot solo homer to left field to make it 3-0.

Zunino extended the Rays’ lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth with a sacrifice fly to center, and it appeared that Tampa Bay was primed to advance without any trouble.

But the Astros made it interesting in the top of the eighth when Carlos Correa singled to right field to score two runs. Trailing 4-2 in the final inning, Yuli Gurriel singled to right with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate.

However, Houston couldn’t find any more magic in its comeback attempt. Josh Reddick struck out swinging and Aledmys Diaz flied out to right to finally conclude the series.

Morton (2-0) allowed no runs and only two hits in his 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked one. Peter Fairbanks was credited with the save after shutting down the Astros in the eighth and ninth innings.

Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. (0-2) gave up three runs on four hits across 3 2/3 innings. He recorded seven strikeouts and issued one walk.

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