Rays lose again on walk-off by Correa

by Gary Shelton on October 16, 2020

in general

Choi tied the game with a long home run./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

Are you worried yet? Is your throat dry? Are you palms damp? Did you have fingernails for a snack Thursday night?

The Tampa Bay Rays say they aren't panicking. But how about you?

For the second straight night, the Houston Astros won a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, again extending the American League Championship Series. Carlos Correa hit a walk-off home run off of Nick Anderson in the ninth inning for the winning run.

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Which, for a Rays' fan, was enough to bring a slew of questions to mind.

Will the hitting ever return for the Rays? Have they become homer-happy all of the sudden? Is Anderson mortal, after all? And is Blake Snell up to the task of keeping the ball inside the ballpark against this powerful Houston lineup?

All seem to be valid questions. Certainly, the Rays seem to be in better shape in the bullpen, but their hitters scuffled mightily against Framber Valdez earlier in the series, so the question is whether they can do enough damage against him.

Then, there is this. The Rays have won a lot with the long ball in this post-season. But have they fallen in love with the home run trot? Consider this. The Rays have scored 71.4 percent of their runs (35 of 49) with the home run. During the regular season, they scored just 41.5 percent.

Are the Rays over swinging? Or under-connecting?

“I don’t think we’re getting home run happy," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "The ball does carry here a tick more than we anticipated when we first came out here to start the division series. It is flying. But most of these homers are probably home runs anywhere. I don’t think we’re homer happy. We've got to get back to the basics and what makes us good. Don’t get in the way of us hitting home runs, but let’s get some guys on base before the homer comes."

For instance, the Rays hit three home runs Thursday (Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Ji-Man Choi), but no one was on base for any of them. The Rays had only four other hits.

"We're very confident," Cash said. "This isn’t a tough stretch. We're playing good baseball against a good team. There’s a lot of back and forth. I'm very confident we’ll be ready to go.”

The Rays seemed to have an opportunity Thursday. Houston used seven pitchers, including five rookies, but the Rays could do no damage that didn't include a home run.

"Once again, we have to try to work at bats and try to get on base," said centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. "We need to do a little better job of doing that. Use our speed. We have to get on base."

A surprising facet of the game was the sudden decline of Anderson, who threw a 1-1 fastball that Correa hit for the game winner. Anderson has given up six hits in his last three outings (five innings).

"He was selling out for the heater the whole time," Anderson said.

The Rays will try again to close out Houston at 6:07 p.m. Blake Snell will start against Framber Valdez.

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