The Astros and Dodgers entered yesterday’s games on the brink of elimination, barely clinging to their World Series hopes. While the Dodgers were down in the series 3-1, the most dangerous lead in all of sports, the Astros sought to make history by becoming the second baseball team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit.
How did things shake out on Friday?
Astros 7, Rays 4
Despite the Rays winning three straight games to start out the ALCS, this series has been remarkably close. No team has scored more than five runs in a game, and every game has ended with the tying or winning run at the plate.
Friday’s game turned out to be the least stressful affair so far.
The Rays drew first blood, with Willy Adames tallying an RBI double off Valdez in the second. But other than that momentary blip, Valdéz silenced the Rays’ offense. Valdéz, who has so far been excellent in the playoffs, had arguably his best start of the postseason: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, and 9 K.
His most critical moment came in the sixth inning when Yandy Díaz shouted at Valdéz while heading to first after drawing a one-out walk to put two runners on.
Carlos Correa, who somehow already has 62 career postseason games played, had an emotional pep talk with the third-year starter to hopefully settle Valdéz’s nerves in a huge situation.
Whatever Correa said worked as Valdéz got the struggling Brandon Lowe to ground into a double play and end the inning.
Meanwhile, the usually stout Rays’ bullpen struggled this game while Snell turned in an okay start that lacked length (4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, and 4 K).
Snell did pitch four scoreless innings to preserve a 1-0 lead, but Kevin Cash removed him in the top of the fifth after Snell gave up a lead-off walk and then a single. Cash turned it over to Diego Castillo, who entered today’s game with a fantastic career postseason resume: 13 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 6 BB, and 18 K.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 17, 2020
From this point on, the Astros maintained a lead that proved insurmountable for the Rays, whose bats fell quiet.
This excludes Manuel Margot, who knocked two separate home runs, one each in the seventh and eighth, to make the game interesting. Houston had to bring in Ryan Pressly in the ninth to close out a 7-4 win.
Pressly shut the door on Tampa, recording three outs on nine pitches to tie the series at 3-3 and force a Game Seven that almost no one predicted would happen after the Rays jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Tuesday.
Will the Rays cap off a dominant 2020 season with a historic collapse? Will the Astros join the elite company of the ’04 Red Sox? Will Houston become the first sub-.500 team to make a World Series?
Tune in tonight to TBS at 8:37 p.m. EST/5:37 p.m. PST to find out.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 17, 2020
Dodgers 7, Braves 3
About 1,000 miles away from Petco Park, the Dodgers and Braves fought another elimination game in the Lone Star State.
Down 3-1 in the series, the Dodgers sought to avoid another humiliating chapter in their recent playoff history. Since Clayton Kershaw debuted in the majors in ’08, the Dodgers have won the NL West every year except from ’10 to ’12. In that span, they have lost in the NLDS three times, NLCS four times, and World Series two times.
The Braves have also struggled since their last World Series win in ’95. From ’96 to ’19, the Braves lost one Wild Card game, nine NLDS, three NLCS, and two World Series.
Both teams entered Friday’s game hoping to overcome the misfortunes of their modern postseason legacy.
The rookie Dustin May started for the Dodgers against the Braves’ AJ Minter, but neither pitcher lasted long into the game. May had just two IP, allowing one run in each inning as he struggled with a dangerous Braves offense. Travis d’Arnaud scored the first run on a first-inning sac fly, while the highly-touted prospect Christian Pache had an RBI single in the second to put Atlanta ahead 2-0.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 17, 2020
Meanwhile, Minter was fantastic in his first-ever postseason start (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, and 7 K) as he carved apart arguably the best lineup in baseball with a great mix of perfectly-located power fastballs and hard-biting breaking pitches.
It's AJ Minter's World. 🌎
7Ks thru 3. pic.twitter.com/3VIssINRWh
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 17, 2020
The Dodgers fought back as soon as Minter left the game, with Corey Seager clobbering a lead-off homer in the fourth off Tyler Matzek to make it 2-1. Both teams’ bats fell quiet for a bit until Los Angeles strung together a couple of baserunners in the sixth. This brought up a critical two-out situation with runners on first and second as Will Smith faced Will Smith in a historic at-bat.
Smith (the batter) fought his way back from 0-2 to work a full count, before Smith (the pitcher) threw a 94 mph fastball at the bottom inside corner of the zone that Smith (the batter) saw all the way and crushed to left field for a go-ahead three-run homer that barely missed gifting someone a free RV.
The Dodgers tacked on yet another three runs in the very next inning, capped off by another Seager home run to make the score 7-2.
COREY SEAGER, SO HOT RIGHT NOW. pic.twitter.com/v94a8F1sGi
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 17, 2020
Seager’s multi-home run game continued his scorching hot performance this year, which has made history in a couple of ways: he is the first shortstop ever with four homers in one playoff series, and he is now tied for the most RBIs and homers by any Dodger in a single postseason.
Los Angeles tried to add on to this lead in the next inning when Max Muncy crushed a ball to dead center, but the rookie Pache made waves on both offense and defense this game as he performed a perfectly-timed leaping catch to rob the homer.
This insurance run wasn’t needed as the Dodgers ran away with this lead while their bullpen quieted the potent Braves bats, who recorded just two hits and one walk over the final six innings of play.
Kenley Jansen looked in peak form as he closed this game out in the ninth, striking out the side for the first time in the postseason since Game One of the 2017 NLCS.
The Astros have already shown this postseason that no deficit is too big to overcome, and the Dodgers hope to mirror that success on way to what could be a rematch of the 2017 World Series.
To see if there will be a Game Seven in the NLCS, check out Game Six today at 4:38 p.m. EST/1:38 p.m. PST on FS1.
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)