Rays stave off Astros in Game 7 to advance to World Series for second time in franchise history

The Rays hold on to win Game 7 over the Astros to advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

10/18/2020 7:00:00 AM

The Rays advanced to the WorldSeries for only the second time in franchise history, knocking off the Houston Astros, 4-2, in Game 7 of the ALCS.

The Rays hold on to win Game 7 over the Astros to advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

The Rays may be baseball’s poster boys for the analytic world, with their openers, four-man outfields, no traditional closer, and platoon at nearly every position, but they win the old-school way.Their starters can shut down anyone, as veteran Charlie Morton proved again, winning his major-league record fourth consecutive winner-take-all-game, suffocating the Astros’ hopes of becoming only the second baseball team in history to overcome a 3-game-to-0 deficit. He shut them out for 5 ⅔ innings, giving up just two hits. He is now 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA in elimination games.

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He was only the second pitcher in history to win Game 7 for one team -- the Astros in the 2017 World Series -- and then facing the same team in another Game 7, joining Roger Clemens who did it with the Boston Red Sox and Yankees.“He’s unbelievable,’’ said Rays shortstop Willy Adames. “Every time he’s on the mound, we have a lot of confidence in him. We trust him. He’s a true professional.’’

Morton, 37, barely even broke a sweat in this game. He gave up a two-out single to Michael Brantley in the first inning, and retired 14 consecutive batters. Yet, after a walk and an infield single, Cash turned to his vaunted bullpen.Their bullpen, with a record 13 relievers producing saves, is deep and talented. Nick Anderson, who gave up only five hits the entire season, picked up where Morton left off, pitching two shutout innings. Pete Fairbanks came in with two outs and two runners on in the eighth, and finished them off.

And, oh, how they play defense better than anyone in the game, turning 10 double plays in the ALCS.When the Rays were eliminated in five games by the Astros a year ago in the AL Division Series, they knew they’d be back to the postseason, with nothing less than a World Series championship in their sights.

“We learned a lot playing five games against Houston,’’ Cash said. “There were things in those experiences and playing in that environment that are led our guys to believe that we can really be right in the thick of things coming into the 2020 season.

“And they really have taken that approach the entire season-long and postseason.’’Yes, and as painful as it was being eliminated by the Astros, it at least gave them experience playing in winner-take-all games, beating the New York Yankees in the elimination game in the Division Series, and now the Astros.

Now, with only Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves standing in the way of their first World Series, they’ve got a bandwagon of believers.“They play baseball the right way,’’ Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. “They play hard. Run the bases hard. They play great defense. And they pitch.

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“That’s a recipe for winning championships.’’ Read more: USA TODAY »

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