x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rays advance to World Series

The Tampa Bay Rays advance to the World Series at the expense of defending champions the Boston Red Sox.

The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their series victory against Boston at the end of Game Seven.
The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their series victory against Boston at the end of Game Seven.

ST PETERSBURG, Florida // The Tampa Bay Rays completed a stunning run to their first World Series, holding off the defending champions the Boston Red Sox 3-1 yesterday in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series (ALCS). The Rays nearly let it slip away when they blew a seven-run lead late in Game Five and lost convincingly on Saturday night. But when the rookie David Price struck out JD Drew with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning, Tampa showed their worth.

"It's unbelievable," the centre fielder BJ Upton said. "We battled a lot of adversity this year. We stuck together as a team." The Rays were the MLB's whipping boys since the franchise started in 1998 and were a 200-1 shot to win the World Series before the season started. They now face the Philadelphia Phillies in Game One of the World Series this Wednesday. The Tampa Bay Pitcher Matt Garza the Most Valuable Player from the Boston series, sees this result as a dream come true. He said: "As a kid I think everybody pictures this night. Usually it's Game Seven of the World Series but I'll take Game Seven of the ALCS."

Willy Aybar homered and Evan Longoria and Rocco Baldelli also drove in runs to support Garza. Acquired in an off-season trade with Minnesota, Garza limited the Red Sox to Dustin Pedroia's first-inning home run. Four more wins and manager Joe Maddon's squad will go from the worst team in the League to World Series champions in just one season. The Red Sox were hoping to win their third crown in five years. "We didn't get as far as we wanted," the Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We came out to win and go to the World Series and we didn't accomplish that."

Longoria's fourth-inning double off Jon Lester tied it at one-all. Baldelli's RBI single put the Rays ahead in the fifth after Aybar doubled and Dioner Navarro reached on an infield single. Garza took the mound for the biggest game of his life with something, perhaps cotton balls, stuffed in his ears to help drown out the noise at the sold-out Tropicana Field. The 24-year-old right-hander struck out nine before shortstop Jason Bartlett booted Alex Cora's ground ball for an error, leading off a tense eighth.

Boston went on to load the bases when Kevin Youkilis drew a two-out walk. David Price, the No 1 pick in the 2007 draft, became the fifth Tampa Bay pitcher of the innings. He struck out with a check-swing on a fastball to end the threat. Price worked around a lead-off walk in the ninth and when the pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie grounded out, it cued mass celebrations from the Rays. The Rays dropped the 'Devil' from their name before the season, possibly quashing a bad omen after finishing last in the AL East in nine of their first 10 seasons.

After splitting the first two games of the series at home, though, Tampa Bay found their feet in Boston, with the Rays sending shot after shot sailing over Boston's famous Green Monster. In all, the Rays outscored the Red Sox 29-13 in the three games at Fenway Park, hitting 10 home runs. *AP