RANDY Arozarena crushed a two-run home run and the Tampa Bay Rays held on for a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) in San Diego on Saturday night, sending the AL East champs to the World Series.
The win came after the Rays had seen the Astros erase a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series with three straight wins, and earns Tampa Bay a shot at either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves in the World Series beginning on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.
The top-seeded Rays will be making just the second trip to the World Series in franchise history. They were beaten 4-1 by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
The loss denied the sixth-seeded Astros a third appearance in the World Series in the last four seasons. Houston won the 2017 championship over the Dodgers.
Tampa Bay wasted no time taking the lead in the decisive seventh game, with Manuel Margot reaching base on a hit batsman in the first before Arozarena launched his two-run shot off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. (0-2).
The homer was Arozarena’s fourth of the series and seventh of the postseason, equaling the number the rookie hit in 23 regular-season games. Arozarena was named ALCS MVP.
Mike Zunino delivered Tampa Bay’s other two runs, increasing the lead to 3-0 with a solo home run in the second and making it a four-run game with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. The homer was Zunino’s second of the series and fourth of the postseason. He had only four homers in the regular season.
Right-hander Charlie Morton (2-0) continued his career Game 7 mastery with 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just two singles and a walk. He struck out six.
Morton improved to 3-0 in Game 7 appearances, having beaten the New York Yankees as a starter in the 2017 ALCS and the Dodgers in relief in the 2017 World Series. In 14 2/3 career Game 7 innings, he’s given up just one run and six hits.
Nick Anderson bailed Morton out of a two-out, two-on jam in a 3-0 game in the sixth but left in favor of Pete Fairbanks in the same predicament, albeit it with a four-run cushion, two innings later.
Fairbanks walked Michael Brantley to load the bases and then served up a two-run single to Carlos Correa, allowing the Astros to get within 4-2 with the potential tying runs aboard.
But the right-hander preserved the lead by striking out Alex Bregman before pitching around a one-out single by Yuli Gurriel in the ninth for his third save of the postseason.
McCullers couldn’t finish the fourth, charged with three runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out seven.
Ji-Man Choi had two hits for the Rays, who were out-hit in the series 59-44. — Reuters