Rays beat Astros 5-2, move within 1 victory of World Series

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead, two-run single two batters after another critical error by José Altuve, and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for a 5-2 win against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night that moved them within one victory of the second World Series appearance in franchise history.

Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier saved several runs with two outstanding catches before leaving with a hand injury as Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series at Petco Park. Towering righty Tyler Glasnow, who grew up just north of Los Angeles, will try to complete the sweep and deliver the Rays their first pennant in 12 seasons Wednesday night when he opposes Zack Greinke.

Tampa Bay reached the World Series in 2008 but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“There’s a very confident mindset with this group,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ll stay consistent and do everything we can behind Glasnow to make plays.”

The innovative Rays had one of baseball’s lowest payrolls during the pandemic-shortened season and still finished with the AL’s best record at 40-20. They often have a different player come up big every night, whether it’s a batter or reliever — or sometimes both. They’ve also played spectacular defense.

The Astros got into the postseason with a 29-31 record before going 5-1 to reach the ALCS. But they’ve looked nothing like the team that won the AL pennant two of the last three seasons and they remain villains in many peoples’ eyes for their sign-stealing scandal three years ago en route to a World Series title.

After Diego Castillo pitched the ninth for his second save, stranding two baserunners, he clapped his hands and the Rays celebrated with their usual handshake line.

“We’re in a good spot, but we’re not counting anything yet. We know we have another ballgame to win,” Wendle said.

The Astros fell apart in the sixth, when the Rays sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs on four hits, two hit batters and Altuve’s error at second base. One of the runs was unearned.

Losing pitcher José Urquidy held Tampa Bay to two singles through five scoreless innings before Randy Arozarena singled leading off the sixth. Brandon Lowe hit a grounder to Altuve, who went for a routine forceout but short-hopped the throw and it skipped past shortstop Carlos Correa and into left field.

Enoli Paredes replaced Urquidy, and Yandy Diaz singled to load the bases. Wendle lined a single off third baseman Alex Bregman’s glove to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Manuel Margot, whose three-run homer in Game 2 followed the first of Altuve’s two errors, laid down Tampa Bay’s first sacrifice bunt of the season. Paredes hit Kiermaier on the hand to load the bases and then grazed Willy Adames on the pinkie with another pitch to bring in another run.

“A nightmare inning,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe, who like Margot began his career with the San Diego Padres, flared a double into right to bring in two more runs.

Renfroe and Margot were traded to the Rays in separate deals last offseason.

“That big hit has been eluding us the whole series,” Baker said. “It seems like they get whatever they want.”

Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough pitched into the sixth for the win, holding the Astros to two runs and three hits while striking out five and walking two.

Yarbrough allowed Altuve’s homer in the first inning, his second of the series. Michael Brantley’s homer to left leading off the sixth chased Yarbrough.

Altuve has 17 career postseason home run, tying teammate George Springer for most in franchise history.

Two batters after Altuve’s shot, Bregman missed a home run by a matter of inches as Kiermaier made a leaping catch of his drive near the top of the fence in center.

Altuve also homered in the first inning of the opener, a 2-1 Rays win.

THE CUBAN ROCKET

Arozarena, who defected from Havana to Mexico in 2015, doubled in the third for his eighth extra-base hit this postseason, one shy of tying Melvin Upton Jr. and Evan Longoria, both in 2008, for the most in a single postseason in Rays history. Arozarena has four homers this postseason.

NICE DEFENSE

Besides his leap to rob Bregman, Kiermaier made a diving catch of Correa’s liner with two runners on to end the third. Renfroe made a diving grab of Springer’s sinking liner to end the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, Renfroe also made a sliding basket catch of Kyle Tucker’s fly ball.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: Kiermaier exited with a bruised left hand after getting hit by the pitch in the sixth. X-rays were negative.

“Try to be hockey tough in these kind of situations, but we’ll see how my recovery process goes,” Kiermaier said.

UP NEXT

Rays: The 6-foot-8 Glasnow (2-0, 4.05 ERA) will make his fourth start of the postseason. He beat the New York Yankees 7-5 while striking out 10 in Game 2 of the AL Division Series and then started the clincher Friday night and went 2 1/3 innings on just two days’ rest.

Astros: Greinke (0-0, 5.19) will be making his third start this postseason and the 19th playoff start of his career. He experienced a sore arm during the ALDS against Oakland but said he should be fine.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.