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Astros Force Game 7, Dodgers Stay Alive With Game 5 Victory

The Houston Astros continue their playoff magic by becoming the second team to force a an elimination game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Los Angeles Dodgers came through with a 7-3 win over the Atlanta Braves powered by their dynamic offense in a battle of the bullpens.

Here’s the action from Friday night:

ALCS Game 6

Mike Zunino (#10) — AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Both teams had their Game 1 starters on the mound, as Astros LHP Framber Valdez sought to avenge a tough 2-1 loss against his counterpar, LHP Blake Snell.

After quick one-two-three innings from both pitchers, the Rays got on the board first with a two-out double from SS Willy Adames to put the Rays up 1-0 in the bottom of the second. Valdez bounced back by posting three consecutive hitless innings to keep the Astros in the ballgame.

Snell allowed the first two Astros to reach base in the top of the fifth, prompting Rays Manager Kevin Cash to call on RHP Diego Castillo. The move did not pay dividends, as a successful sacrifice bunt by C Martin Maldonado led to CF George springer driving in two runs with a single through the right side of the infield. 2B José Altuve followed with an RBI double and SS Carlos Correa added an RBI single of his own to put the Astros up 4-1.

The Rays third reliever, LHP Shane McClanahan, surrendered a home run to OF Kyle Tucker in the top of the sixth and the Astros added two more runs in the seventh off of McClanahan to pad their lead to 7-1.

After a dominant six-inning, nine-strike out performance by Valdez, Astros Manager Dusty Baker Jr. turned to RHP Andre Scrubb to pitch the seventh inning. OF Manuel Margot took Scrubb deep to left field for a home run to trim the Rays deficit. Scrubb’s struggles continued as he allowed runners to reach the corners with two outs, forcing Baker Jr. to bring in LHP Blake Taylor to face the red-hot outfielder Randy Arozarena. Taylor escaped the jam, getting Arozarena to groundout to first and kept the score at 7-2

Margot followed up his seventh inning big fly with a two-run blast in the eighth inning, but those were the final runs for the Rays, as the Astros forced a Game 7 with a 7-4 victory.

Notable Performances

(From left to right) Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (#10), José Altuve (#27), Carlos Correa (#1) and Alex Bregman (#2) — Ashley Landis/AP Photo

Valdez: 6 IP, W, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K

Tucker: 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R

Altuve: 2-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R

Margot: 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

Looking ahead to Game 7

With the Astros winning the last three games, they look to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the second team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason with a Game 7 victory Saturday evening. A win will also give the Astros their third AL pennant in the last four years.

RHP Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Rays, as RHP Lance McCullers Jr. will toe the rubber for the Astros. Both pitchers were stellar in Game 2, however, defensive miscues cost McCullers Jr. the victory. If Morton faces adversity early, don’t be surprised to see Cash use Game 4 starter, RHP Tyler Glasnow, in an emergency relief appearance.

The momentum seems to have swung in the direction of the Astros, as they put together their best offensive performance in Game 6 and their bullpen has consistently limited damage. However, the Rays are no stranger to winner take all games, as they defeated the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALCS. A deep pitching staff, superb defense and timely hitting have been the Rays’ juggernaut throughout the postseason. Look for them to put together a well-rounded, pennant-winning performance.

NLCS Game 5

Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

With the Braves relying on their bullpen to close out the series, Manager Brian Snitker couldn’t have asked for a more ideal start. The Braves scored once in each of the first two frames, while Dodgers RHP Dustin May struggled with his control and departed after the second inning. LHP A.J. Minter was the Braves opener and delivered a dazzling performance, striking out seven of the ten batters he faced over three innings.

It looked as if the Braves were destined for another offensive onslaught in the third inning, as DH Marcell Ozuna scored from third on a one-out sacrifice fly from SS Dansby Swanson. Replay review showed that Ozuna never correctly tagged up from third base and the Dodgers’ successful challenge led to an inning-ending double play. The score remained 2-0 in favor of the Braves.

The Dodgers offense responded to Ozuna’s base-running miscue, as SS Corey Seager hit a solo home run to center field off LHP Tyler Matzek cutting their deficit in half.

In the bottom of the sixth with two men on and two outs, Braves LHP Will Smith faced Dodgers C Will Smith. The first pitcher-batter matchup between two players with the same name in postseason history was won by the Dodgers backstop, as he launched a three-run homer deep into the left-field seats.

The Dodgers impressive display of offense continued as an RBI single from RF Mookie Betts and Seager’s second long ball of the game put the Dodgers up comfortably 7-2.

The Braves offense was silenced by the Dodgers six relief pitchers, as they combined to give up only one run on five hits to help extend the NLCS to a sixth game.

Notable Performances

Minter: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 K

Seager: 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

Betts: 2-4, RBI, R, SB

1B Freddie Freeman: 2-4, 2 2B, 2 R

Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

Looking ahead to Game 6

Both bullpens were used early and often in Game 5, meaning Braves LHP Max Fried and Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler must have fantastic outings tomorrow afternoon. While both pitchers only allowed one run in Game 1, Buehler battled command issues and a nagging blister. If the Braves can score runs early off Buehler and force Manager Dave Roberts to go to his bullpen sooner rather than later, the Braves will be in excellent position to advance to the World Series. However, the Dodgers offense has stepped up in must-win postseason games this year and can easily carry themselves to a seventh game.

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