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Rays Take Game 7, Dodgers Force One

After seeing the ALCS reach a Game 7, the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied against the Atlanta Braves to force a deciding NLCS Game 7 of their own. The Tampa Bay Rays regained their mojo and finally eliminated a surprising Houston Astros team that just wouldn’t quit en route to the 2020 American League Championship title and their first World Series appearence since 2008.

Here’s how it all went down:

NLCS Game 6

Corey Seager (#5) — Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo

The Atlanta Braves had yet another opportunity to put the menacing Los Angeles Dodgers away to advance to the World Series. But the Braves dropped their previous two games to force the second Game 7 in a championship series this postseason.

Every Dodger run came in the first inning off Atlanta’s ace, LHP Max Fried, who has been extraordinary for most of the postseason. SS Corey Seager and his power stroke returned, as he went yard for the fifth time this series to get the scoring started. Seager’s record-breaking blast made him the first player in MLB history to stoke five-plus home runs in the NLCS. He’s a sure bet to hoist up the NLCS MVP award if the Dodgers win Game 7. Right afterward, 3B Justin Turner hit his first home run of the 2020 postseason to go back-to-back with Seager.

The Dodgers kept the pressure on, as 1B Max Muncy walked and C Will Smith stayed hot with a single. OF Cody Bellinger hit Muncy home to give LA an early 3-0 lead before the Braves stopped the bleeding.  

RHP Walker Buehler wiggled out of jams and kept Atlanta off balance, as he put up zeroes in the run column for six straight innings. He got some solid help from his defense, too. In the fifth, OF Mookie Betts made an outstanding catch at the wall to rob OF Marcell Ozuna of a potential RBI and keep the shutout going. 

Meanwhile, Fried settled down after his rocky first innin and started to blank the opposition like Buehler had been doing. He pitched 6.2 innings of three-run ball until giving way to the bullpen. 

The Braves were thankful that Buehler was finally out of the game, because they scored their first run in the seventh off RHP Blake Treinen. OF Ronald Acuña Jr. brought home OF Nick Markakis with a double to make it a two-run game, but Treinen got it back together to keep it close.

This ended up being Atlanta’s last good chance to battle back, because RHP Pedro Baez had a squeaky clean eighth and RHP Kenley Jansen joined him with a one-two-three ninth to seal the 3-1 victory for Los Angeles and force a decisive Game 7.

Notable Performances

(From left to right) Cody Bellinger (#35) and Mookie Betts (#50) — Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

SS Dansby Swanson: 3-4, SB

C Travis d’Arnaud: 2-4

Buehler (W): 6 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Bellinger: 1-3, BB, RBI

Looking Ahead to Game 7

The Dodgers looked like a deeper team on paper going into this series, but somehow, the Braves managed to get them to 3-1 on the series. On the other hand, the Dodgers have looked really comfortable on all sides of the ball for the last two games.

RHP Ian Anderson will take the hill for Atlanta, and he hasn’t allowed a run in nearly 15.2 innings this postseason. The real question is whether the rookie sensation can handle the big stage and a potent lineup or not. If the Braves are to clinch their first pennant in over two decades, they will need a strong pitching performance from Anderson and the bullpen. 

The Dodgers need to continue swinging the bats and keep the bullpen at its consistent level of quality. LA relievers have been mostly spectacular in these last two games, and the last thing they want is a collapse in their most important game of the postseason so far. 

I don’t think anyone has a clue who will take home the win, but series deciding games are always filled with dramatic fun.

ALCS Game 7

Randy Arozarena (#56) — Ashley Landis/AP Photo

The Rays looked totally in command and ready for an easy sweep with a 3-0 series lead, but the Astros continued to pull off an improbable series to force a Game 7. But the Rays had other ideas, as a big first inning set them up for a 4-2 win to advance to the World Series.

Astros’ SP Lance McCullers Jr. has had a track record of pitching in clutch moments. The Rays started veteran RHP Charlie Morton, who was a teammate with McCullers Jr. on the 2017 Astros. Morton was the winning pitcher and recorded the final out to clinch the controversial 2017 title against the Dodgers.

OF Randy Arozarena, the series MVP and now household name, started the scoring early with a two-run home run in the first inning that immediately fired up the Rays dugout. 

C Mike Zunino also provided some offensive output with a solo shot an inning later. The Rays continued to give McCullers Jr. issues until he was pulled in the fourth inning. Zunino also picked up a sac-fly in the sixth to pad Tampa Bay’s lead to 4-0. 

Morton continued his streak of postseason dominance and blanked the Astros for 5.2 innings, and kept a pretty efficient pitch count, too. However, in a questionable move by Manager Kevin Cash, he was pulled in favor of RHP Nick Anderson, who was objectively amazing in the regular season but hasn’t been as much in the playoffs. Still, Anderson kept the threatening Astros at bay enough until he ran into trouble in the eighth.

RHP Peter Fairbanks inherited a two-out jam and had trouble getting the final out. He walked DH Michael Brantley to load the bases and gave up a two-run single to the SS Carlos Correa to make it a 4-2 ball game before finally striking out 3B Alex Bregman with a 100 mph fastball.

Fairbanks remained in the game to clinch the AL championship title. He started the inning by striking out OF Kyle Tucker but gave up a single to 1B Yuli Gurriel. OF Josh Reddick came to the plate in the form of the tying run, but he struck out as well. A lazy flyball from INF Aledmys Díaz sealed the deal and ended the Astros hopes of proving doubters wrong. With the win, the Rays advance to their first World Series since 2008 to play either the Braves or the Dodgers.   

Notable Performances

Carlos Correa (#1) — Gregory Bull/AP Photo

1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-3, BB, R

Morton (W): 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

2B José Altuve: 2-4, R

Correa: 1-4, 2 RBI

World Series Preview

If there’s one thing that we’ve learned so far, it’s to expect the unexpected with the 2020 postseason. Just when we thought that Tampa might choke, they hung on to stop an Astros team that was really picking up steam.

This just continues another unique story-line. I imagine the World Series will play out interestingly for the Rays regardless of their opponent. The only question now is who they will be meeting in Arlington on Tuesday to play for the World Series title. 

Riley Wood View All

I am a 22 year old writer and ultra-fan of baseball currently residing in Long Beach, California. I became a published author earlier in 2020 on Amazon and ran my own personal blog at dreamden.org. I’m majoring in communication studies and English and plan to graduate later this year. I’m a lover of art in all forms but especially the art of a strike zone.

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