Rays are headed to World Series

The American League East champion Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the World Series. They won the first three games of the AL Championship Series against Houston, but then lost the next three.

But behind right-hander Charlie Morton, they won 4-2 in Game 7 last night to head to the World Series for the second time in team history. In 2008, they lost, four games to one, to Philadelphia. Now they will chase their first title against the winner of tonight's National League Championship Series Game 7 between Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The World Series begins Tuesday night.

Morton threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and left the game in what seemed a way too quick hook. In the sixth, he allowed a one-out walk and two-out infield single. Even though he was dominating, he was pulled after 66 pitches. But the Rays bullpen held on for the win.

Some updated postseason numbers for Morton:

* In four career games (three starts) in winner-take-all games, he is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.45, allowing one earned run over 20 innings.

* He is unbeaten in his last nine games (eight starts) in the postseason, going 7-0 with an ERA of 1.45.

* After going 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA this year in nine regular-season starts for Tampa Bay, he is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.57 in three playoff starts.

* Since joining the Rays for the 2019 season, he is 5-0 with an ERA of 0.70 in five postseason starts. In that span, he has allowed two earned runs over 25 2/3 innings.

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpgThe Rays, the No. 1 AL seed, improved to 9-5 in the playoffs and to 6-2 this postseason when the game is decided by two runs or less. They allowed just seven runs in their four wins against Houston.

Had Houston won, this would have been the biggest postseason upset ever, going by regular season winning percentage. Tampa Bay was at .667 and Houston at .483, a difference of 184 points.

After the Tampa Bay win, teams that outhomer their opponent are now 30-4 this year in the playoffs.

In the NLCS: In the NLCS, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to Atlanta 10-2 on Thursday to fall behind, three games to one. But they won the last two nights by 7-3 and 3-1 scores to force a Game 7 tonight at 8:15 p.m.

So the top-seeded Dodgers, who posted the best record in the majors this year at 43-17, stay alive. They have not won the World Series since 1988.

The Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning and made that stand up against the Braves to force the seventh game. Corey Seager and Justin Turner hit back-to-back homers in the first and the Los Angeles pitching made it stand up.

Winning pitcher Walker Buehler threw six scoreless innings on six hits and the bullpen finished up. Kenley Jansen closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth on six pitches. Seager has five homers and 11 RBIs in the series. His six homers this postseason broke Davey Lopes' club record, set in 1978.

Major League Baseball has announced the broadcast schedule for the World Series. The 116th edition of the Fall Classic will begin on Tuesday at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and be televised on FOX. All seven games, if needed, will start at either 8:08 or 8:09 p.m. ET. Why the minute difference? No clue. But if you are curious, Game 1 and Game 7 would be at 8:09 and all others at 8:08.

Baseball's battle against the virus: MLB continues to more than hold its own against Covid-19. MLB released these numbers this week through Thursday.

The number of monitoring samples collected and tested in the past week was 5,026. There were zero new positives among that sample size. Among MLB players, there have now been no new positives for 47 consecutive days and in 55 of the last 56 days.

For the year, since initial intake, the total number of monitoring samples collected and tested has been 169,143. Of that number just 91 of these 169,143 samples, which is 0.05 percent, have been new positives. Of the new positives, 57 of the 91 have been players and 34 have been staff members.

My conclusion is that MLB did an outstanding job handling the virus and the players did an outstanding job observing protocols. It has allowed us to be able to watch a shortened season from beginning to almost the end, which is now close at hand.

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