The Rays beat the Astros, 4-2, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night at Petco Park to advance to the second World Series in franchise history and the first since 2008.
Houston was the second team in postseason history to force a Game 7 after trailing, 3-0, in a best-of-seven series, but unlike the 2004 Red Sox (who erased that deficit in the ALCS before going on to win the World Series), its comeback attempt was unsuccessful. Astros manager Dusty Baker fell to 2-7 in winner-take-all games, with each of his past six being losses.
The Rays hit two home runs, which have become a trademark of their 2020 postseason run, along with stellar pitching. Here are 10 key facts about Tampa Bay's Game 7 win and its playoff run thus far.
Offense, primarily courtesy of the home run
1. The Rays' success wouldn’t have been possible without the homers. They have scored 71.9 percent of their runs via home runs so far this postseason, the highest rate for a team entering the World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was 58.3 percent by the 1971 Pirates.
Looking ahead, the highest rate in a single postseason was 75 percent by the 2001 Cardinals (for teams with at least five playoff games). The Rays’ current rate would be tied for fourth on the list and second among World Series winners (should Tampa Bay go on to win it).
2. One of the Rays' two Game 7 homers came off the bat of Randy Arozarena. His two-run blast in the first inning was his seventh homer of the playoffs, setting the MLB record for a rookie in a single postseason. Arozarena is also tied for fourth among all players in a single postseason, behind only Barry Bonds (2002), Carlos Beltrán ('04) and Nelson Cruz ('11), each of whom hit eight.
Arozarena is tied for the second-most career postseason homers in Rays history, behind only Evan Longoria (nine).
3. Arozarena became the first rookie position player to win either the LCS or World Series MVP Award. The only previous rookies to win one of those awards were Mike Boddicker (1983 ALCS MVP), Livan Hernández ('97 NLCS and World Series MVP) and Michael Wacha (2013 NLCS MVP). Arozarena's 21 hits this postseason are tied with the Astros' Yuli Gurriel (2017) for second most among rookies in a single postseason, behind only Derek Jeter, who had 22 in 1996.
4. The Rays’ other Game 7 home run came from Mike Zunino, who has four homers this postseason to match his 2020 regular-season total. Zunino is tied for second for most homers by a catcher in a single postseason, behind only Sandy Alomar Jr. (five in 1997).
5. Home runs have been frequent and key for the Rays, especially because their offense has mostly been quiet otherwise. They went 6-for-28 (.214) in Game 7, marking the ninth straight game in which they have hit .230 or lower. That's two games longer than any such streak in postseason history. Still, Tampa Bay is 5-4 in those games.
Charlie Morton, Mr. Winner-Take-All
6. Morton threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his Game 7 start, putting the Rays in position to win. It was his second career scoreless start in a winner-take-all game, making him one of five pitchers with multiple scoreless starts in such contests. He joins Justin Verlander, John Smoltz, Bret Saberhagen and Madison Bumgarner, all with two each.
7. Morton entered Game 7 with the most victories in winner-take-all games in MLB postseason history, and then he earned another. His four wins in those games are twice as many as any other pitcher.
8. Morton averaged 95.3 mph on his four-seam fastball in Game 7, according to Statcast, his highest in any outing (regular season or postseason) in 2020.
9. At 36 years and 340 days old, Morton became the third-oldest starting pitcher to get the victory in a winner-take-all game. The only starters older than him to win one were Jamie Moyer (38 years, 331 days) in Game 5 of the 2001 AL Division Series and Burleigh Grimes (38 years, 53 days) in Game 7 of the 1931 World Series.
10. Morton has allowed less than two earned runs in five straight postseason starts, tied for the second-longest such streak in playoff history, behind only a six-start run by Curt Schilling from 1993-2001. The other pitchers with five-start streaks were Kyle Hendricks, Ryan Vogelsong and Sandy Koufax (since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913).