This is how it was supposed to be, right? The strangest and most unlikely of Major League Baseball seasons has also proved to be one of the most exciting in modern memory.
The championship series in the American League was decided yesterday in Game 7 with the Tampa Bay Rays holding off the Houston Astros 4-2 to clinch the pennant and reach the World Series for the first time since 2008. Yes, it was because of Randy Arozarena. Did you really need to ask? The National League Championship Series will also be decided by a game 7 – a Mookie Betts-inspired Los Angeles Dodgers triumphed over the Atlanta Braves 3-1, which ties the series 3-3, a surprising turn of events after the Dodgers fell to a 3-1 deficit earlier this week. Oh, baby!
Rays 4–2 Astros
It is safe to say that the baseball world went to sleep content last night after your favorite second team the Tampa Bay Rays prevailed in the ALCS against the much maligned Houston Astros. Despite winning three straight games at Petco Park to start out the series, the Rays were pegged back by an experienced Astros hitting lineup, who powered their way to three consecutive wins to tie the series and take it to yesterday’s game 7. The Rays turned to veteran Charlie Morton, who became the first pitcher to ever win 4 winner-takes-all games in the postseason (and with an 0.46 ERA may I add), defeating Astros starter Lance McCullers who once again struggled with the long ball.
There has been one constant throughout this series, and that has been the sensational play of the Rays’ Cuban rookie outfielder, Randy Arozarena. It was no surprise that his 2-run homer off McCullers catapulted the Rays out in front in the bottom of the 1st.
It was an electric moment, that should be relived several times today.
all 57 seconds of this video is pure electricity. pic.twitter.com/Sgj0WTQjAF
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 18, 2020
Arozarena now holds the record for the rookie with the most home runs in a postseason with 7, eclipsing the previous best of 6 by Evan Longoria. The youngster also picked up the MVP award for the series, an honor that nobody could disagree with. From the buzz of the rookie to the experience of the wily veteran – in the bottom of the 2nd, up stepped catcher Mike Zunino, who appeared in only 28 regular-season games for the Rays in 2020, to blast a hanging curveball from McCullers into the left-field seats.
Zunino also hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 6th inning to stretch out the Rays lead to 4-0 before Astros superstar shortstop Carlos Correa made things interesting by darting a 2-run single to right field in the top of the 8th.
However, The Rays closed it out with Peter Fairbanks and booked their place in the World Series for only the second time in their history. Rays Up! A special mention to Morton too who came up with the goods once again when the Rays needed him. The 36 year old sent his old team packing in style and will look to win his second World Series title next week. This delightful 79 mph curveball to strike out Jose Altuve was his pitch of the night.
Final starting pitcher lines:
Charlie Morton: 5.2 IP, 2 H, o ERA, 1 BB, 6 K (66 pitches)
Lance McCullers: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ERA, 1 BB, 7 K (75 pitches)
Tampa Bay 4, Houston Astros 3 – Tampa Bay Rays are the American League Champions
Dodgers 3–1 Braves
The Dodgers jumped on Max Fried early to wrangle control of Game 6 of the NLCS and force a mouthwatering winner-takes-all Game 7 to decide who will play the Tampa Bay Rays to contest the 2020 World Series. Corey Seager certainly has the hot bat, and it showed once again in the bottom of the 1st inning.
The very next hitter was Justin Turner. He wasted no time on getting in on the act, sending a 93 mph sinker from Fried to deep left-center field for back-to-back home runs for the Dodgers.
It was tough for Fried, who was outstanding for the Braves in Game 1 of the series and only allowed 2 home runs in the entire regular season. Postseason baseball is an unforgiving beast, however. It was the kind of start that can knock the wind out of the sails of a team and make it hard for them to recover, which was very much the case here.
Ok, let’s get to that man Mookie Betts. With the Dodgers up 3-0 in the 5th inning, the Braves had a man on 1st base when Buehler hung a knuckle-curve over the middle of the plate to Marcell Ozuna. He smashed the pitch to deep left-center field and the entire Dodgers fanbase gasped. What were they worried about? Do your thing, Mookie.
MOOKIE BETTS. pic.twitter.com/O4bjbvu1El
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 17, 2020
This angle of the catch is absolutely stunning.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 17, 2020
That play was the gut-punch for the Braves, who desperately needed something special to happen at that time in the contest. These types of plays are the exact reason why the Dodgers brought Betts to Los Angeles and tied him to that blockbuster $365 million, 12-year contract extension.
The Braves did get a run back in the top of the 7th inning thanks to their own superstar, Ronald Acuña Jr.
Kenley Jansen had no issues in the 9th, pitching a 1-2-3 inning for the save. The momentum is with the Dodgers for sure, so can the Braves do what the Rays did and fight against the current to reach the World Series? We will find out tonight.
Final starting pitcher lines:
Walker Buehler: 6 IP, 7 H, o ERA, 0 BB, 6 K (89 pitches)
Max Fried: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ERA, 4 BB, 5 K (109 pitches)
Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Atlanta Braves 3 – Game 7 today: 8:15 pm EST / 5:15 pm PT (FOX)
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)