Desmond Jennings snapped a seventh-inning tie with a two-run single that capped a three-run inning, sending the Tampa Bay Rays to their second straight game-ending win in World Series elimination playoff, this time against the Houston Astros, 6-5, on Saturday night.
The Rays’ rally came with starter Chris Archer back on the mound for the first time since leaving his start in the first inning because of back spasms. He threw 46 pitches in one inning, three more than he’d thrown in any other start this season.
“It’s a unique mental and physical thing,” said Archer, who learned of his spot in the rotation while in bed the night before the game. “The adrenaline really helps in that situation.”
Evan Longoria homered and drove in three runs for the Rays, who got a two-out single from Longoria and a two-run double from Brad Miller in the eighth to tie it. Jennings, making just his second start of the season in the field, put the Rays ahead with his go-ahead hit in the seventh.
“That was unbelievable. That was awesome,” said Jennings, who was in the World Series in 2011 with the New York Yankees and 2013 with the Rays. “This is the biggest stage in baseball, so anything you can do to be a part of a winning moment, you’ve got to do it.”
Rookie right-hander Ryan Yarbrough pitched two scoreless innings to get the win, while Sergio Romo got three outs for his ninth save this postseason. The Rays won each of their first two games of the AL Championship Series at the home of the Houston Astros, eliminating the defending World Series champions after losing the first two games in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Jennings said. “Now it’s go time.”
Yulieski Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the seventh for the Astros, who were again without star second baseman Jose Altuve, who didn’t play because of a sore right hamstring. Houston leads the best-of-seven series 3-1.
Lance McCullers Jr. continued his stellar postseason debut by allowing four runs in seven innings for the Astros.
Altuve has been hit in the left hamstring three times this postseason. He has dealt with the problem since Game 2 of the AL Division Series against Cleveland, and the worst leg injury of his seven-year career occurred in Game 2 of the ALCS.
Game 5 is Monday night in Houston, with Dallas Keuchel taking the mound for the Astros against Chris Archer.
Tampa Bay got off to a shaky start when Longoria led off the game with his 23rd home run, a shot into the right-field seats. It was Longoria’s first homer in the postseason since hitting a solo shot against the Los Angeles Angels in Game 5 of the ALDS in 2016.
The Rays made it 2-0 in the fourth with a rally that began with an error by Altuve. Brandon Lowe was safe on an infield single after his grounder bounced into foul territory near first base.
McCullers struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning, but Longoria reached on the error when the ball hit him while he went to tag Altuve and rolled toward the Astros dugout. Altuve and Rasmus, who scored from first, began arguing with home plate umpire Dean Porter.
Altuve went to first on a routine grounder in the fifth and went back to second on the play. Chris Devenski relieved McCullers and Miller followed with a double to center field that put the Rays up 3-0.
Cristhian Adames made it 4-0 with a double to center field in the sixth, and Adames scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 5-0. But McCullers retired the next three batters to prevent further damage.
Dee Gordon led off the seventh with a ground-rule double that glanced off the heel of his glove as he attempted to make a diving catch. Tommy Pham walked before Yarbrough relieved McCullers and threw a curveball that Gurriel drove into the bullpen in left field for his second three-run homer of the postseason.
McCullers had allowed just two home runs in 20 innings during the ALCS and the playoffs.