The Tampa Bay Rays are one win from their first trip to the World Series since 2008.
The Rays defeated the Houston Astros 5-2 in Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego. Joey Wendle, Hunter Renfroe, Randy Arozarena and the bullpen led the way, helping their team seize a commanding 3-0 advantage in the series.
As for the Astros, a solid showing from starter Jose Urquidy was not enough to prevent a third consecutive loss. They will now have to win four straight to reach the Fall Classic for the third time in four years.
Notable Player Stats
- Ryan Yarbrough, SP, TB: 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 5 K, 2 BB
- Randy Arozarena, LF, TB: 3-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB
- Joey Wendle, 3B, TB: 2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 R
- Hunter Renfore, RF, TB: 1-for-2, 2 RBI
- Jose Urquidy, SP, HOU: 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 4 K, 1 BB
- Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU: 2-for-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB
- Michael Brantley, LF, HOU: 2-for-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
Astros' Miscues and Wasted Opportunities Spoil Urquidy's Outing
Urquidy was excellent during the regular season with a 2.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP but was looking to bounce back in Tuesday's contest.
After all, he allowed four home runs in 4.1 innings his last time out in a Division Series loss to the Oakland Athletics and looked nothing like the stabilizing force in Houston's rotation he was during much of the 2020 campaign.
He wasted no time bouncing back in the early going, striking out Michael Perez with the bases loaded in the second and retiring Yandy Diaz with a runner on third in the third inning. The right-hander settled in from there until his teammates let him down in the decisive sixth inning.
Jose Altuve's throwing error—his third of the series—led to runners on first and second with nobody out, which spurred manager Dusty Baker to remove Urquidy.
That set the stage for a rally, as Wendle drove in two with a single off Enoli Paredes, who then hit Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames back-to-back to bring in another run. Renfroe's two-RBI double off Brooks Raley gave the Rays a commanding 5-1 lead before their daunting bullpen even entered the game.
It wasn't just the throwing error from Altuve and wildness from Paredes that cost Houston the game, as the offense spoiled chances with two runners on base in both the second and third innings when it could have taken control.
Missing those opportunities before Tampa Bay's bullpen came in to close the door proved costly, although the Astros also stranded the bases loaded in the eighth and two runners on in the ninth.
Pitching and Excellent Defense Set the Tone for Rays
Tampa Bay's lockdown bullpen and excellent defense has carried it for stretches in these playoffs, and Tuesday's game was no different.
Starter Ryan Yarbrough was solid and allowed just a single hit outside of solo home runs to Altuve and Michael Brantley, but he received key defensive help from Kiermaier. The center fielder made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Alex Bregman in the first inning and made an incredible diving catch in the third to take away a Carlos Correa hit with two runners on base.
Kiermaier, who left the game with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch, helped Yarbrough work around two walks and give the ball to the bullpen with the lead.
It is a formula that has worked for the Rays considering the bullpen allowed one run in 6.2 innings in the Division Series closeout game against the New York Yankees and two runs in eight frames in the first two wins over the Astros.
Even the bullpen got in on the defensive action when John Curtiss made a jumping catch and fired a strike to first to rob Yuli Gurriel of a hit to lead off the seventh after Pete Fairbanks pitched a scoreless sixth.
The defense wasn't done, as Renfroe made a diving catch to rob George Springer in the seventh and a sliding snag on a Kyle Tucker line drive in the eighth with the bases loaded. From there, Aaron Loup preserved the three-run lead by retiring Gurriel with a ground out.
Diego Castillo, who is yet to allow an earned run in the playoffs, closed the door following the brilliant defensive performance.
Game 4 of the series is Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. ET.