Astros top Rays again, send ALCS to Game 7

Framber Valdez delivered his second quality start of the American League Championship Series and the Houston Astros parlayed a four-run fifth inning into a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Petco Park to force a seventh and deciding game for a World Series berth.

The Astros became just the second team in postseason history to force a Game 7 after dropping the initial three games of a best-of-seven series. Houston joins the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who completed the comeback by beating the New York Yankees in the ALCS en route to a World Series title.

Game 7 will be played Saturday night.

Valdez (1-1), the losing pitcher in Game 1 despite allowing just two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts over six innings, was even better the second time around against the Rays. He worked six innings, surrendering one run on three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts.

Trailing 1-0 entering the fifth, the Astros suddenly seized control against Blake Snell (1-1). The Rays left-hander had appeared to steady himself in the third and fourth innings after needing 41 pitches and two double plays to hold the Astros scoreless over the first two innings.

Snell issued a leadoff walk to Yuli Gurriel before Aledmys Diaz singled to left field, prompting a pitching change. Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to right-hander Diego Castillo, 1-0 with two saves and a 0.00 ERA in six postseason appearances. The Astros kept rolling.

After Martin Maldonado’s sacrifice bunt, George Springer produced a two-run single before Jose Altuve added an RBI double that pushed the Astros to a 3-1 lead. Two batters later, Carlos Correa plated Altuve with an RBI single. The Astros sent eight batters to the plate in the decisive inning.

Manuel Margot slugged a pair of home runs for the Rays: a leadoff shot in the seventh and a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth. Brandon Lowe, who scored on Willy Adames’ RBI double in the second inning, scored on the second Margot homer.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly, pitching a third consecutive day for the first time this season, induced a game-ending double play from Mike Brosseau on his ninth pitch of the ninth inning. Pressly earned his second save in the series and his fourth in the 2020 postseason.