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Once down 3-0 in ALCS, Astros force Game 7 be­hind Springer, Al­tuve

Baltimore Sun - - BASEBALL - By Bernie Wil­son

SAN DIEGO — Ge­orge Springer and José Al­tuve keyed a four-run rally in the fifth in­ning, Fram­ber Valdéz pitched six bril­liant in­nings and the Astros beat the Rays for the third straight game, 7-4 Fri­day to force a de­cid­ing Game 7 of the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

The Astros chased starter Blake Snell in the fifth be­fore Springer hit a go-ahead, two-run sin­gle and scored on Al­tuve’s dou­ble. Car­los Cor­rea, who hit a walkoff home run in Thurs­day night’s 4-3 win, added an RBI sin­gle.

The Astros are one win away from their third World Se­ries in four sea­sons and join­ing the 2004 Red Sox as the only teams to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a se­v­engame se­ries. The Red Sox stunned the Yan­kees to win the ALCS be­fore win­ning their first World Se­ries in 86 sea­sons.

Oth­er­wise, big league clubs lead­ing 3-0 in a best-of-seven post­sea­son se­ries are 37-1.

Hoius­ton also is try­ing to be­come the first team to win a pen­nant with a los­ing reg­u­lar sea­son record (29-31). The Astros have been crit­i­cized for their role in a cheat­ing scan­dal en route to the 2017 ti­tle that was un­cov­ered last off­sea­son.

Manuel Mar­got home­red twice and drove in three runs for the Rays, who af­ter blow­ing the 3-0 se­ries lead re­main one win away from the sec­ond World Se­ries in fran­chise his­tory and moved within one loss from join­ing the 2004 Yan­kees in ig­nominy.

Game 7 on Satur­day night will feature the pitch­ers who started and fin­ished Hous­ton’s Game 7 win against the Dodgers in the 2017 World Se­ries. Right-han­der Lance McCullers Jr. will go for the Astros while 36-year-old Charlie Mor­ton is ex­pected to start for the Rays. In the de­ci­sive Game 7 in 2017, McCullers started and went 2 1⁄

3 score­less in­nings while Mor­ton pitched the fi­nal four in­nings for the vic­tory. Mor­ton signed with the Rays prior to the 2019 sea­son.

Valdéz (3-1), who lost the opener of this se­ries 2-1 to Snell (2-2), held the Astros to one run and three hits while strik­ing out nine and walk­ing three in his third ca­reer post­sea­son start. He al­lowed Willy Adames RBI dou­ble to left in the sec­ond.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly pitched for the third straight day and got three outs for his sec­ond save to go with a win in Game 5. He al­lowed Yoshit­omo Tsut­sugo’s one­out sin­gle, then in­duced Mike Brosseau’s game-end­ing dou­ble­play grounder.

The Astros’ 71-year-old skip­per, Dusty Baker, who led NL teams for the first 22 sea­sons of his 23-year man­age­rial ca­reer, used some old­school base­ball to out­fox his younger coun­ter­part, 42-year-old Kevin Cash, to over­turn a 1-0 deficit in the fifth. The rally had only one hard-hit ball. The Astros had been frus­trated in the first three games when they scalded balls right to field­ers.

Snell walked Yuli Gur­riel open­ing the fifth and al­lowed a sin­gle to Aled­mys Díaz on his 82nd pitch. Cash, whose team was built around an­a­lyt­ics, pulled Snell be­fore he could face the No. 9 bat­ter, catcher Martín Mal­don­ado, and lead­off hitter Springer, who had struck out twice.

Mal­don­ado laid down a sac­ri­fice bunt against Diego Castillo and Springer punched a two-run sin­gle to cen­ter through a hole in a drawn-in in­field that was also in a shift. Al­tuve fol­lowed with a dou­ble into the left-field corner that brought in Springer, who might have been out if Bran­don Lowe had hit the cut­off man.

Af­ter Michael Brant­ley walked, Cor­rea sin­gled to left to bring in Al­tuve.


Car­los Cor­rea (1) and Ge­orge Springer (4) cel­e­brate Fri­day night fol­low­ing the Astros’ 7-4 win over the Rays.

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