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ALCS Game 5 Diary: Walk off spoils another close game

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Damn.

League Championship - Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Rays win and they go to the World Series.

On the mound for the Astros is a rookie who gets crushed on the regular. Lefties feast on his fastball, righties just need to wait for a pitch away:

On the mound for the Rays is surely to bee all four horsemen, as highlighted by this Rays tweet of the lineup:

Top 1

Brandon Lowe — Tampa Bay’s sixth different lead off man in the post season, and MLB record — and Randy Arozarena gave it a good effort with flyballs that fell short of the fence in right field. Austin Meadows strikes out.

It’s sunny in San Diego, and it’s a beautiful day to win a baseball game...

Bottom 1

John Curtiss takes the mound ready to spook the Astros.

First pitch from The Pale Horse is also hard hit to left field... too hard. George Springer has been hitting well, and he gave this one a helluva ride:

I mean freaking crushed. 116 mph off the bat.

1-0 Astros

Curtiss comes back with a strikeout of Brantley, but Jose Altuve turns an 0-2 count into a walk. Thankfully, the pitch count balances out by a first flyball for Bregman, and the Curtiss turns and fires to Ji-Man Choi to catch Altuve dancing too far away from the bag!

Top 2

Ebb and flow: Yandy Diaz grounds out, Ji-man Choi walks! Manuel Margot flies out, Joey Wendle hit by pitch!

Willy Adames takes an easy walk from Garcia, who true to scouting report throws away from righties, and Mike Zunino steps in, BASES LOADED on two outs.

The sequence: called strike paints the black, same pitch same place is fouled off, third fastball away... IT’S DEEP... It’s playable.

DAMN how many of these flyballs are going to be caught on the warning track!?!?!

Bottom 2

Working quickly, Curtiss starts the frame with a Correa strikeout for a beautiful sequence.

And that ends his night! Curtiss how do you feel about getting pulled after 17 pitches?

Too bad! LHP Josh Fleming — aka Yarbitron 2.0 — is warm and ready for his post season debut! He should get the bottom of the order, which includes two lefties, and then the full order once through if things go to plan.

Left handed hitting Kyle Tucker is his first at bat, and he fights back for a strikeout after a 2-0 count. Yuli Gurriel then flies out easily to center. Nice start for the rook!

Top 3

It’s the top of the order and a new pitcher, lefty Blake Taylor — BRANDON LOWE: LONGBALL.

F I N A L L Y

110.7 mph, deeeeeeeeeeeeep center.

1-1 ballgame!

Randy Arozarena struggles to pick up the ball; the broadcast blames shadows crawling across the field. It’s a backwards K for him, then Meadows hits a sharp ground out. That’s three hitters, so Dusty Baker goes and gets the reliever.

Wait, what?

Why wouldn’t you try to stretch Taylor for more than 11 pitches when he’s one of your four best relievers? No clue! Another good reliever we’ve seen a ton Paredes comes in, and Yandy Diaz grounds out to the deep fielding Altuve.

Bottom 3

Fleming full count to Josh Reddick ends in a single, Maldonado fouls a few off and lines one off the wall in right-center, and it’s the 8-9 men in scoring position to start the frame.

The PA system is playing Danger Zone.

The first pitch to George Springer is tapped to the third base side of the mound. Fleming looks the runner back, turns, and throws a strike to Ji-Man Choi in time for the first out.

The left handed Brantley steps in and singles to Meadows who sends in a looping throw home that boggles the brain.

The Astros send both home as the ball bounces toward home plate weakly, two-hopping to Zunino.

Wow.

That’s not me. That’s Maldonado sliding home. If one run ends up mattering in this game, we’ll remember this moment.

3-1 Astros.

Fleming coaxes a double play from the cursed Alex Bregman, but I’m still wondering why Meadows couldn’t do better than that throw.

Top 4

More ebb and flow. Ji-Man Choi walks, Manuel Margot strikes out. Joey Wendle walks, Willy Adames strikes out. It’s up to Mike Zunino who was feet away from a grand slam in the second inning, and Paredes eats him up with 97 mph heat at the top of the zone.

That’s five men left on by Z this game. Tough.

Bottom 4

Fleming gets Correa to ground out softly, Kyle Tucker flies out harmlessly, and Gurriel grounds out to Joey Wendle. 1-2-3, and boy the Rays needed that!

Top 5

Brandon Lowe doesn’t do it again, popping out to lead the frame, but BOY OH BOY — RANDY IS SAVAGE!

105.8 mph, 32 degrees, 406 feet

SIX HOME RUNS THIS POST SEASON!

That ties Evan Longoria’s rookie record, and as Randy’s 20th hit of the post season, he is two hits away from Jeter’s rookie record.

3-2 Astros

Austin Meadows flies out to chase Paredes, and Dusty Baker brings in Andre Scrubb, making the pitching change a little sooner than expected once again.

Yandy Diaz strikes out on a tough pitch, Ji-Man Choi singles to put two on, but then Manuel Margot grounds out to Alex Bregman — who, despite being unable to hit this series, can certainly still field. Bregman bare hands and fires to first to get the speedy runner.

7 stranded by the Rays, but it’s a one run game!

Bottom 5

Josh Fleming gets Josh Reddick to fly out in foul territory up the right field line on his first pitch and his night is done, bringing in Aaron Slegers for his second appearance this post season, having just pitched yesterday.

Maldonado doesn’t run on a grounder to third base, bringing up the top of the order, a formidable challenge!

Springer works an astonishing 11 pitch at bat, fouling off seven pitches before striking out on a slider well out of the zone.

Top 6

Scrubb is back, gets a ground out from Wendle, and after an eight pitch at bat strikes out Adames on a pitch inside.

Mike Zunino swings through a cutter away, but then gets the same pitch in the zone and is able to line it to left, leading Baker to lift Scrubb with the top of the order due up.

LHP Brooks Raley, signed out of Korea by the Reds and acquired by Houston off a DFA, is the next man up and facing Brandon Lowe. The handedness match up favors the Astros, and Lowe strikes out having seen four sliders, none of which were in the zone.

Bottom 6

Still down a run, Kevin Cash is giving Slegers the heart of the Astros line up.

Shaded up the middle, Willy Adames fields an easy groundball. The Slegend starts Altuve with some chin music and goes down 3-0, but fires fastball a few fastballs into the zone.

A high and inside fastball on a full count finds his wheel house and Altuve punishes the ball into the third base bag. It ricochets into left field, but Randy’s heads up fielding gets a throw to second base just in time!

Poor Alex Bregman flies out to end the sixth.

Top 7

Randy Arozarena is back up, and Raley returns. His first six pitches are cutters, and Randy fouls his way through a full count before the eighth pitch is a curveball below the zone that fools him.

Austin Meadows then lays off enough to get a full count, but can’t resist a slider away, grounding out to Bregman. Having met the three batter maximum, Raley gives way to last night’s relief stuf Josh James, a tall order for the Rays with only seven outs remaining.

After a generous call outside the zone, Yandy Diaz swings at a high fastball, takes outside, and then gets a workable curve. He knocks it off the pitcher’s mound, and Altuve yips one to first base — sadly, Gurriel fields it on the hop.

Nothing in the seventh.

Bottom 7

With no runs scored, Slegers is back, and Brandon Lowe flashes some leather for the first out fielding up the middle on the shift.

The next batter Tucker grounds to the mound and for the first time in a while the throw by the pitcher gets away. Slegers rifles left of Choi and Tucker advances to second base.

Yuli Gurriel grounds out to Joey Wendle, who had a tough transition but was bailed out by a good stretch from Choi, and the Rays intentionally walk lefty Josh Reddick to get to the catcher Maldonado, who had an RBI double earlier in the game.

After a fouled slider and a fastball down, Slegers gets Maldonado swinging on a change up at the top of the zone.

Top 8

James has formidable velocity, but the Rays need to put up.

AND JI MAN DOES!!!!!!!!!!

CRUSHED! 109 MPH!!!

Choi had just taken a fastball below the zone, and when the next one snuck into the zone he was able to barrel up!

MASSIVE.

3-3 TIE BALL GAME

Margot gets a sharp single up the middle, and Dusty Baker gets his best reliever Ryan Pressly warming. No outs, one on, and Joey Wendle taps one to James. He has no issue fielding it, and Correa turns the double play despite the sliding Margot. James pulls something in his leg fielding the play, leading to an injury time out.

Two outs and none on, and by rule Baker can call in anyone he wants with time to get ready, but Willy Adames gets the formidable Pressly who is already warm. Willy Adames isn’t able to time up the fastball after he takes 93, whiffs 94, then whiffs 95.

Bottom 8

Cash had Nick Anderson warm in anticipation of runs scoring, so he enters here for the top of the order! Springer flies out to Brandon Lowe who is the fourth outfielder for the at bat, Michael Brantley taps out to first, and Jose Altuve on a full count lines one into Wendle’s glove.

Job well done. Now to will the Rays into some more offense!

Top 9

Pressly returns and Cash opts to let Zunino hit — the Astros closer tries a fastball down the middle, and Zunino singles on a hard hit ball to left field, bringing in Kevin Kiermaier (!!!) as the pinch runner!

KK isn’t taking a big lead with none out and Lowe at the plate, who whiffs on a slider below the zone after fouling a low slider off the pitch before.

That bring up Randy Arozarena, and during the at bat KK advances on a pitch in the dirt. Randy gets a slider well into the zone and pops out to shallow right field, which holds KK at second base.

That brings up Austin Meadows with two outs, and the Astros burn their final mound visit, opting not to walk the 2019 All-Star. Meadows foul tips the first pitch, a curveball away, takes a curve high, and then gets a slider in that he flies out to center.

Bottom 9

Oh dear. After a pitiful pop out from Alex Bregman, what can you do.

Carlos Correa connects on a fastball.

The World Series feels so close and so far away.

We ride again tomorrow.

Go Rays.