After a nail-biting Game 1 win last night, the Rays looked to take a 2-0 series lead over the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Charlie Morton took the mound for the Rays this afternoon against Tampa native Lance McCullers Jr for the Astros.
George Springer got the game going with a single for the Astros. Facing Jose Altuve, Charlie Morton threw a perfect back-door fastball to record the game’s first strikeout.
Michael Brantley hit a single that moved Springer up to third but both runners were stranded after Alex Bregman lined out and Kyle Tucker struck out.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Randy Arozarena stayed hot and hit a single to left. Ji-Man Choi thought he grounded out to end the inning, but Yuli Gurriel wasn’t able to secure a poorly thrown ball to first from Jose Altuve and it allowed Choi to reach, putting two runners on for Manuel Margot.
Margot made them pay. Hitting a ball to center field that never stopped carrying, Margot put the Rays up 3-0 with a home run that left his bat at 100.5 mph, traveling 406 feet.
We thought Margot’s heroics were done after hitting a home run, but that was just the beginning. With two runners in scoring position and two outs in the top of the second, Springer hit a ball to right field that sliced foul... but was caught by Margot, who flipped over the wall to secure the final out in the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Brandon Lowe found himself getting on base the exact same way Choi did in the first, thanks to yet another horrible play by Altuve and Gurriel. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t make the Astros pay, as the score remained 3-0 after three.
Morton struggled in the top of the fourth, walking Yuli Gurriel with one out and walking Martin Maldonado with two outs, but George Springer hit a grounder to Brandon Lowe and Lowe made a good recovery to make the out and end the inning.
One defensive recovery is nice, but two more in the following inning, that’s even better. Joey Wendle recorded the first out of the fifth with a diving stop and throw, and Willy Adames ended the inning with a nice play of his own.
McCullers struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth, as the Rays offense has stalled since the threat in the third inning.
Pete Fairbanks entered the game in the top of the sixth, ending Morton’s shaky but effective outing. Five innings of work led to five strikeouts, one walk and five hits on 96 pitches with no runs allowed for Charlie Morton.
Fairbanks allowed a solo home run to Carlos Correa in the sixth but kept the game at 3-1 after the home run. The Rays offense once again was quiet in the bottom of the sixth as McCullers recorded his ninth strikeout and 12th straight batter set down.
Fairbanks was not pleased with his sixth inning, because he locked it in and struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
When it looked like McCullers was about to have another 1-2-3 inning, Mike Zunino said “I’ll be taking that” to a two-out, 1-1 fastball and sent it deep to left-center field, extending the lead to 4-1. The batted ball metrics are ridiculous: 111 off the bat, 32 degree launch angle, 454 feet.
Aaron Loup was brought in to pitch the top of the eighth and worked a scoreless inning with the help of even more defensive wizardry by the Rays. Joey Wendle once again made good stop and Ji-Man Choi stretched out as far as he could to complete the second out of the inning.
Ryan Thompson was brought in to face Carlos Correa with one on and two outs and ended the inning with a groundout on only two pitches.
Andre Scrubb was brought in for the Astros and set the Rays down 1-2-3, so onto the top of the ninth, where it’s Nick Anderson’s ball to try and get the save for the Rays.
Well, not how you want it to start: back-to-back singles by Houston put two on for Aledmys Diaz with no outs. A single up the middle for Diaz loaded the bases and turned the lineup around, bringing George Springer to the plate.
Springer hit the ball... right at Brandon Lowe, who was shaded towards the shortstop position! Lowe stepped on second and threw the ball to first, giving up the run for two very important outs. Anderson walked Altuve to put runners on the corners for Michael Brantley. Anderson walked Brantley, bringing Alex Bregman up with the bases loaded.
First pitch swinging, hit to center field, carrying but CAUGHT BY KEVIN KIERMAIER. RAYS WIN. The series lead improves to 2-0 for the Rays!
Anderson gets the stress-filled save but they all count the same, and it all comes back to the Margot home run in the bottom of the first, scoring the go-ahead run for the Rays and solidifying this as The Manuel Margot Game.
The Rays will look to secure their third win of the series tomorrow night in San Diego with first pitch scheduled for 8:40 pm. Jose Urquidy will take the mound for Houston while Ryan Yarbrough will get the start for the Rays.