And then there were two. After a couple of Game 7’s, we finally have the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers set to battle for the Commissioner’s Trophy starting on Tuesday, October 20. Let’s take a look back on both MLB Championship Series and see how they got here.
ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays defeat Houston Astros 4-3
Game 1: Jose Altuve hit a first-inning home run off of Rays starter Blake Snell to get the scoring going. It looked like it might be a long day for Tampa’s ace. He managed to navigate six hits and two walks. He only struck out two but got through five innings giving up just the one homer. Framber Valdez was on cruise control the first time through the lineup, but eventual ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena hit a solo shot of his own to tie the game in the fourth. Mike Zunino drove in a run the following inning and gave the Rays a 2-1 lead. That’s how the game ended as Diego Castillo got the five-out save.
Game 2: After a quick two outs in the bottom of the first, Arozarena singled off of Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. Ji-Man Choi then hit a grounder to Altuve who yipped the throw, allowing Manuel Margot to come to the plate. In the “mistakes will kill you” portion of this recap, Margot then deposits the baseball over the center field wall, giving the Rays a three-run lead which they would never relinquish.
Game 3: Again, Altuve launches a first-inning solo homer. This time it comes off of Ryan Yarbrough. Houston starter Jose Urquidy holds the Rays scoreless through five. In the sixth, Tampa Bay comes alive thanks to Arozarena and another yip-worthy throwing error by Altuve. The Rays score five runs in the frame and take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Game 4: Another game, another first-inning jack from Altuve. After the Astros tack on another run in the third, Arozarena comes through in the fourth with a two-run bomb to tie the score. The Astros have a playoff performer of their own in George Springer, who hits a two-run blast off of Tyler Glasnow in the fifth inning. Tampa Bay makes it interesting in the ninth, pulling within a run with the tying run on third base when Yoshi Tsutsugo lines out to Springer to end the game as Houston stays alive.
Game 5: This time Springer didn’t let Altuve have all the fun in the first, hitting the opening pitch over the wall. The Astros would score two more in the third. The Rays countered with three solo home runs of their own; Brandon Lowe, Arozarena, and then Choi in the eighth to tie it at three. Carlos Correa decided to end things in the ninth off of Nick Anderson to walk it off. Correa joined David Ortiz and Bernie Williams as the only players with two walk-off homers in postseason history (More on that in Tuesday’s article).
Game 6: Finally, a clean first inning, although Tampa Bay scored a run in the second on a Willy Adames double. The Astros were shut down for the first four innings until they found their bats in the fifth. Houston scored seven runs in the fifth through seventh innings and forced a Game 7, becoming the second team ever to do so after being down 3-0 (2004 Boston Red Sox).
Game 7: Old friend Charlie Morton showed veteran moxie and absolutely shut down the Astros for 5 2/3. Arozarena cemented his MVP status with a two-run shot off of McCullers in the first inning. Zunino added a solo blast in the second and the Rays tacked on another run in the sixth. Correa drove in two in the eighth to pull the Astros within two runs but that was all Houston could muster. The Rays won the game 4-2 and finally won the series 4-3.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Atlanta Braves 4-3
Game 1: Freddie Freeman started off the scoring in the first inning with a solo bomb off of starter Walker Buehler. The Dodgers righty navigated his way around five walks and three hits to get through five innings with no further damage. Kiké Hernández tied the game in the fifth with a solo shot, and that is where it stood until the ninth. The Braves scored four runs in the final frame and Atlanta took Game 1.
Game 2: Runs came a little more frequently in the second game. Freeman hit a two-run shot off of Tony Gonsolin in the fourth and the Braves tacked on four more in the fifth inning to take a 6-0 lead. The Dodgers came storming back with three in the seventh and if it wasn’t for an Ozzie Albies solo homer in the top of the ninth, this game may have ended differently. Los Angeles scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth, but fell one run short as Atlanta took a 2-0 lead in the series.
Game 3: The Dodgers scored a record 11 runs in the first inning of a playoff game. That’s about all there is to know in this one. Los Angeles wins 15-3.
Game 4: The Atlanta young guns have been carrying them in the playoffs… so why not Bryse Wilson? The only hit he surrendered through six innings was a solo round-tripper to Edwin Rios. The rest was all Atlanta, they put up six runs in the sixth and took a solid 3-1 series lead.
Game 5: Down 2-1 in the sixth inning and staring at 12 more outs to win or go home, the Dodgers countered Will Smith with Will Smith. the Los Angeles version got the best of the “Battle of Bel Air” as the catcher blasted a three-run shot to give his Dodgers the lead. They would tack on another three in the following frame and take the game 7-3.
Game 6: Corey Seager and Justin Turner went back to back in the first inning and Buehler made it stand. Having found his control, the Dodgers second ace didn’t walk a batter and struck out six in six innings of work. Although Blake Treinen would give up a run in the seventh, Pedro Baez threw a scoreless frame and Kenley Jansen saved his second game in a row as the Dodgers forced a winner-take-all on Sunday night.
Game 7: Atlanta scored two quick runs in the first and second innings. The Dodgers responded quickly in the bottom of the third with two runs of their own to tie it. The Braves took the lead in the fourth on a single by Austin Riley, driving in Albies. The Dodgers got the runs back with a solo dinger by Hernandez in the sixth to tie it. A Bellinger home run in the seventh gave the Dodgers the lead 4-3. Julio Urias retired all nine batters he faced to finish the game and Los Angeles moved on to the World Series for the third time in four years.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images