The man who sealed the World Series for the Houston Astros in 2017 just stopped them from making it back, halting a historic ALCS comeback and sending baseball's villains home with a bit of poetic justice.
And now it’s the Rays headed to their first World Series since 2008, winning Game 7 of the ALCS by the score of 4-2.
Charlie Morton, part of that 2017 Astros team that cheated and won the World Series, was outstanding on the mound for the Rays, dominating his former team in what was his most important outing since he closed Game 7 of the World Series in their uniform.
For all the baseball fans waiting for justice to be served against the Astros, this might be the closest we’ll get. Getting one game from the World Series again only to lose against a man who has one of their World Series rings? It’s fitting. These Astros made the postseason with a sub-.500 record, without Justin Verlander and riding an unheralded pitching staff to an October run that would have been the most 2020 twist of the MLB season.
Randy Arozarena, who has been hitting like the best baseball player in the world lately, homered again in Game 7 — his seventh of the postseason, a rookie record — and the Rays looked like the team that rattled off three straight wins to start this series. The Astros were trying to complete a comeback that we’d only seen once before. The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team in history to win a seven-game series after falling behind 3-0.
The Rays got here by hitting homers, and that’s what worked in Game 7. They jumped ahead on Arozarena’s two-run blast in the first inning and got a solo shot from Mike Zunino in the second (he also had a sac fly RBI in the sixth).
The Astros got two runs in a tense eighth inning when Carlos Correa knocked a two-run single with the bases loaded. But the Rays escaped without any more damage. Peter Fairbanks, after starting out rocky in the eighth, shut down the Astros in the ninth to save the game.
As for Morton, the decision to pull him with two outs in the fifth was criticized by armchair managers on Twitter, but this time — as opposed to manager Kevin Cash going to his bullpen early in Game 6 — it worked out for the Rays. Until that point, Morton had allowed just two hits and struck out six, without letting a run cross the plate.
This is Morton’s fourth win in a winner-take-all postseason game. He already had the most in history before this one, having won Game 7 of the 2017 World Series and Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS for the Astros and the 2019 AL wild-card game for the Rays.
This has been a must-see postseason for Arozarena and he gave us the must-see moment in the first inning — his two-run homer got the Rays up early and nine innings later, proved to be enough to send them to the World Series. Watch this angle and just love the Randy energy:
all 57 seconds of this video is pure electricity. pic.twitter.com/Sgj0WTQjAF— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 18, 2020
Arozarena already owns the rookie home run record for a single postseason. He also stands just one behind Derek Jeter for most hits by a rookie in a single postseason. Now that the Rays are moving on to the World Series, he has a good chance to take that one too.
The Rays are on to the World Series for just the second time in franchise history. They will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves, who will decide the National League Championship Series in a Game 7 on Sunday. Tampa Bay's lone World Series appearance came in 2008. The Philadelphia Phillies won that series in five games.
The Rays are positioned for a better result this season. The top of their starting rotation is rock solid with Blake Snell, Morton and Tyler Glasnow all capable of locking down powerful offenses like those possessed by the Dodgers and Braves. The bullpen is deep and versatile as well, which has been a big advantage with this compact postseason schedule.
Offensively, the Rays have been led by Arozarena. They won't overpower you with the bats, but they have a lineup that will make pitchers earn 27 outs. Most importantly, they won't beat themselves with unproductive outs or costly mistakes in the field.
The Rays now have won three days to rest, which history shows might not be the best thing. Since 2006, the team that clinched its World Series berth first has gone on to win the World Series three times. Those teams: 2008 Phillies, 2018 Red Sox and 2019 Nationals.
As for the Astros, they will enter the offseason facing a lot of uncertainty. Outfielders George Springer, Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley, along with infielder Yuli Gurriel, are all eligible for free agency. In addition, ace Justin Verlander is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Game 1 of the World Series will take place Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
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