SAN DIEGO — Remarkable rookie Randy Arozarena homered again, 36-year-old Charlie Morton was brilliant against his former team and the Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series for the second time, silencing the Houston Astros 4-2 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
The Rays will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves in the World Series in Arlington starting Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay’s only other World Series appearance was in 2008, when it lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tampa Bay snapped a three-game losing streak and prevented the Astros from matching the 2004 Boston Red Sox, the only major league team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.
The Rays also kept the Astros from becoming the first team to win a pennant with a losing regular-season record (29-31).
Mike Zunino homered and drove in two runs for the Rays, who avoided the ignominy of joining the 2004 New York Yankees, who took a 3-0 lead in the ALCS and lost four straight to the Red Sox. Boston went on to win its first World Series in 86 seasons.
Arozarena, relatively unknown before these playoffs, set a rookie record with his seventh homer of the postseason. His 21 hits are one shy of Derek Jeter’s 1996 rookie postseason record.
Nicknamed “The Cuban Rocket,” the 25-year-old Arozarena drove a 1-1 sinker from Lance McCullers Jr. to right-center field at Petco Park with one out in the first for a two-run homer.
Arozarena defected from Cuba to Mexico in 2015, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016 and made his big league debut last year. Traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason, he tested positive for COVID-19 before summer camp and didn’t make his 2020 debut until Aug. 30.
Morton held the Astros to two hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out six and walking one.
The Astros broke through against the Rays’ bullpen in the eighth.
McCullers Jr. lasted only 3 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs and four hits, struck out seven and walked one.