Rays 4, Astros 2 (Rays up 2-0)
I am shocked, but not complaining, that the Astros didn’t win this game.
Tampa Bay jumped ahead in the first inning, capitalizing on a Jose Altuve throwing error (his first of two this game) off of a Ji-Man Choi grounder. The inning would have been over if Altuve had completed the throw, but instead the error left two men on base for Manuel Margot to drive in with a three-run bomb to center field.
Taking the bump for the Rays was former Astro Charlie Morton, who gave up zero runs in his five innings pitched. But he had to get out of jams in each of his first four innings, leaving seven Houston players stranded on base during that span.
In the third inning, the play of the postseason was made by Manuel Margot, who continued his impressive day with a leaping catch that sent him over the right field wall in foul territory. This fantastic catch bailed Morton out of another jam.
One could argue the other starter Lance McCullers Jr. had the better day on the mound, going seven innings deep while allowing just one earned run and four overall. His pitching arsenal made Rays hitters look silly all game, earning 11 strikeouts.
The Astros found some life in the sixth inning, as Carlos Correa hit his fifth home run of the postseason off reliever Peter Fairbanks to shorten the lead to 3-1. Tampa Bay answered in the next inning with a solo blast of their own, thanks to catcher Mike Zunino.
The Rays found themselves in yet another jam in the top of the ninth, with the bases loaded and nobody out, only up by three. In a crucial moment for George Springer, he grounded into a double play, which scored one to make it 4-2. Now with two outs, Nick Anderson gave up a deep fly ball to Alex Bregman, which made it all the way to the center field warning track before it was caught by Kevin Kiermaier to end the game.
Thanks to some big plays from Manuel Margot and a little bit of luck, the Rays have taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the series and hope to continue Houston’s hitting woes. In just a few short games, the Astros have gone from putting up several runs per contest to barely scraping by on offense. If they want any chance of making it back to the World Series, they need to turn it around in Game 3.
Braves 5, Dodgers 1 (Braves up 1-0)
Despite the final score, this game was highlighted by some great pitching performances, especially by starters Max Fried and Walker Buehler. They allowed just one earned run and four hits apiece, while combining for 16 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched.
In this game, Atlanta struck first, sending a ball deep to right off the bat of Freddie Freeman to make it 1-0. It took LA six innings to even the score, as Kike Hernandez connected on a solo shot of his own off Fried.
The Braves were able to get something going in the top of the sixth, putting Brusdar Graterol in a two on, one out jam. One strikeout, one groundout and six pitches later, the Dodgers were up to bat—that’s efficiency.
Dustin May loaded up the bases for Atlanta a few innings later in the eighth, and in came reliever Victor Gonzales to help him out. He was able to strike out Charlie Culberson in his first postseason at bat to end the inning, getting him visibly hyped up as he walked off the mound. Not this inning.
In the top of the ninth, the Braves would be silenced no longer, as a solo shot from number nine batter Austin Riley gave Atlanta all of the momentum and the lead. Now at the top of the order, the Braves exploded for three more runs, thanks to a Ronald Acuna Jr. double, a Marcell Ozuna single and an Ozzie Albies two-run homer.
Despite the Dodgers being the World Series favorites, the Braves are not a team to be taken lightly, as their rotation is no joke, and their relentless offense should keep the Dodgers on their toes for the rest of the series. Now behind for the first time this postseason, LA hopes to tie the series at 1-1 behind a strong start from Tony Gonsolin, filling in for the injured Clayton Kershaw.