Corey Seager, right, of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with teammates after their 3-1 win against the Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles (AFP) - Randy Arozarena clubbed a two-run homer in the first inning and Charlie Morton worked 5 2⁄3 solid innings as the Tampa Bay Rays advanced to their second World Series in club history on Saturday with a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros.
Mike Zunino also slugged an early home run as the Rays recovered from the shock of being in a winner-take-all showdown after cruising to victories in the first three games of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego.
Saturday’s game seven allowed the Rays to salvage their season and prevent the Astros from becoming just the second team in Major League Baseball history to storm back from a 3-0 deficit.
Tampa Bay will play either the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series which begins Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. The Dodgers forced a game seven with a 3-1 win earlier Saturday.
Tampa Bay reached the World Series in 2008 before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rays starter Morton allowed just two hits, struck out six batters and walked one.
Houston Astros ace Lance McCullers struck out seven but allowed four hits, three runs and two home runs in just 3 2⁄3 innings of work.
Following a tumultuous offseason and a regular season in which they underperformed, the Astros regrouped in the postseason.
Their 2017 World Series championship lost much of its luster after a MLB probe found Houston illegally stole opponents’ signs that year.
In the NLCS, the Dodgers used another first-inning scoring burst to stay alive in the playoffs, beating the Braves to force a decisive game seven on Sunday.
The Dodgers are one win from advancing to their third World Series appearance in four years after pulling level at 3-3 in the best-of-seven series.
Game seven is in the neutral site of Arlington, Texas with a limited number of spectators allowed to attend because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our team is very comfortable,” said Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler. “I expect the same feeling tomorrow.”
Corey Seager and Justin Turner hit consecutive home runs for the Dodgers, who trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the series but will now play a game seven to keep their bid to win their first World Series title since 1988 alive.
Seager slammed his fifth home run of the series and Turner launched a 418-foot shot to centrefield as the Dodgers long-ball hitters once again took a jackhammer to the Braves’ starting pitcher with three runs in the opening inning.
The Dodgers scored 11 runs in the first inning of game three en route to a crushing 15-3 victory.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They have really good pitchers over there. They bring guys out of the bullpen with 100-mph sinkers. That’s hard to get ahold of. They have experienced guys.
“It’s baseball. It’s just what happens. Sometimes you get on rolls and you get in those situations and guys are getting big hits, and sometimes they aren’t.”
Buehler worked six superb shutout innings, allowing seven hits and striking out six batters. He allowed no walks.
Buehler said he was fine with being pulled from the game after the sixth inning.
“This is a testament to who our team is. I was alright with it,” Buehler said. “You want to keep getting outs, but at the end of the day we had (to protect) the lead.”
Kenley Jansen needed just six pitches in the ninth inning to get three outs and record the save for the Dodgers, who are in the playoffs for the eighth straight year. It was his second save of the playoffs and first since the wild card round.
Atlanta’s Max Fried survived the first inning to pitch 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, including the two homers, in the loss. He struck out five, but also walked four batters.
Los Angeles will send rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin to the mound in the deciding game.
The Braves are seeking to go to their first World Series since 1999. In game seven, they will turn to rookie right-hander Ian Anderson, who has yet to give up a run in three playoff starts.