Arozarena’s MVP run carries Rays to World Series

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

The Tampa Bay Rays, a team of anonymous stars, are headed to the World Series after holding off baseball’s most infamous team.

The Rays held on to beat the Houston Astros 4-2 in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, ending Houston’s bid to become the second team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

The formula for the Rays is consistency, and it was very much evident in Game 7. They stifle the opposition. They catch the ball on defense. And they ride just enough home runs on offense to bring home the win.

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena continued a historic postseason run with his seventh homer of the postseason, a two-run shot in the first that gave Tampa Bay a lead it never relinquished. Arozarena was named MVP of the ALCS, becoming the fourth rookie — and first rookie position player — to be named MVP of a league championship series.

Arozarena has homered seven times during the playoffs, just one shy of the big league record, and now has 47 total bases since the regular season ended.

Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino added a solo shot.

Meanwhile, former Astro Charlie Morton shut down his former teammates over 5 2/3 innings, striking out six batters and throwing just 66 pitches before turning the ball over to Kevin Cash’s airtight bullpen.

The Rays now head to their second World Series in franchise history. The last time the franchise played in the Fall Classic was in 2008, when the Rays lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa Bay entered the first 16-team playoff format in baseball history with a 40-20 record, tops in the AL, and thus earned the junior circuit’s No. 1 seed. That top seed held up, even though the Rays had to recover from losing three straight to Houston after winning the first three contests.

For Houston, it was an emotional loss after a tumultuous season for the organization. The Astros were embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal last winter that tainted their 2017 World Series title and cost manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

Hinch’s replacement, 71-year-old Dusty Baker, helped restore some of the goodwill the Astros squandered. Still, with the Game 7 loss, Baker is still looking for the first championship of a managerial career that began in 1993.

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