For the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays are heading to the World Series.
It was not supposed to be this difficult for the Tampa Bay Rays, but maybe, that just makes this victory that much sweeter.
Facing a Game Seven that seeming should have never happened, the Rays needed Charlie Morton to dominate and for Randy Arozarena to continue his breakout into superstardom. Arozarena did his part, setting the tone early as he took Lance McCullers Jr. deep to give the Rays a 2-0 lead with just one out in the first.
This time, he did not have to do it alone. Mike Zunino stepped up to help power the Rays offense, belting a one out home run in the second to extend the lead to 3-0. He later had a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth to plate Ji-Man Choi for the Rays fourth and final run.
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That would be more than enough for Morton. He carved his way through the Astros lineup, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out six in his 5.2 innings. Although he had thrown just 66 pitches, manager Kevin Cash pulled him with runners on the corners and two out in the top of the sixth, summoning closer Nick Anderson.
Cash’s strategy worked, as Anderson not only escaped the jam, but also navigated his way through the seventh as well. He came back out for the eighth, recording the first two outs, until an infield single off the bat of Jose Altuve ended his night.
That is where the game got interesting. Pete Fairbanks walked Michael Brantley to load the bases, and then allowed a two run single to Carlos Correa. Suddenly, the Rays return trip to the World Series was in doubt. But Fairbanks was able to get out of the jam, firing a 100 MPH fastball by Alex Bregman to end the inning.
Fairbanks finished the job in the ninth. Although he allowed a one out single, he was able to notch two more strikeouts and retire Aledyms Diaz on a fly ball to right, punching the Rays ticket to their first World Series appearance since 2008. Houston had finally been eliminated, with the Rays having avoided the same fate as the 2004 Yankees.
It’s time to celebrate like it’s 2008. The Tampa Bay Rays are going back to the World Series.