After losing the first three games of the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros have forced a winner-take-all Game 7 following their 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night at Petco Park.
The Astros are the second team in MLB history to force a Game 7 after falling behind 0-3 in a playoff series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox were the first to accomplish the feat when they defeated the New York Yankees in the ALCS en route to winning the World Series.
After being shut out for four innings by Blake Snell, Houston’s offense came to life in the fifth with four runs in the fifth. They added at least one run in each of the next two innings to turn what looked like a tense pitcher’s duel into a lopsided victory.
The Rays offense wasn’t exactly lighting up early in the series with 11 runs through the first three games, but they have gone ice cold with eight total runs in their three losses.
Notable Game Stats
- Jose Altuve (HOU): 2-for-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB
- Framber Valdez (HOU): 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 9 K
- Carlos Correa (HOU): 3-for-5, RBI
- Blake Snell (TB): 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
- Mike Brousseau (TB): 0-for-4, 3 K
- Randy Arozarena (TB): 0-for-3, BB
- Diego Castillo (TB): 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), BB
Playoff-Tested Astros on Brink of History
Even though the Astros’ portrayal of themselves as plucky underdogs fighting against everyone who doubted them is laughable after they cheated during the 2017 playoffs, there is something to be said for where this team stands right now.
Framber Valdez, who didn’t make Houston’s playoff roster in 2019 after posting a 5.86 ERA in 26 appearances, has been everything the team needed and more. The 26-year-old southpaw followed up his Game 1 gem with an even better showing Friday.
The Astros’ rotation had the potential to fall apart in 2020. Justin Verlander only made one start and will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Sept. 30. Zack Greinke dealt with soreness in his arm after Game 1 against the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series.
Even though Houston is without Verlander and a limited Greinke, the Rays have only scored four runs or more against one Astros starter in the series (Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 2).
The offense’s quick-strike capability has been another aspect of Houston’s comeback in this series.
The Astros once again made Blake Snell work hard, even though he kept them off the board for the first four innings. He allowed at least one baserunner in three of those frames.
Houston’s breakthrough moment came when Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled his ace after Yuli Gurriel walked and Aledmys Diaz singled to start the fifth inning.
The Astros have relied mostly on their pitching to win. They only scored four runs in each of their first two wins in the ALCS, but this performance was a reminder that their offense remains loaded with talent who can score in bunches.
If Friday was an indication the offense has solved the Rays pitching, Game 7 should be a historic celebration for the Astros as they head back to the World Series.
The Astros and Rays will play Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday at 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS.
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October 16, 2020 at 09:21PM