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Tampa Bay Rays win American League Pennant, off to 2020 World Series

The team with one of the smallest payrolls and average attendances in Major League Baseball heads back to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

Peter Fairbanks #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series at PETCO Park on October 17, 2020 in San Diego, California. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays avoided ignominy and held off the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, and will head to the World Series with a 4-2 win on Saturday night at Petco Park in San Diego.

Rays starter Charlie Morton pitched 5.2 innings of shutout baseball with six strikeouts and a walk to give the “home” team what they needed to stay ahead. Randy Arozarena hit a two-run homer in the in the bottom of the first inning off a Tampa Bay resident in the Astros Lance McCullers Jr. That staked the Rays to a lead they’d never relinquish, as catcher Mike Zunino tacked on a solo shot in the second inning, and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

The Rays cruised to a 3-0 lead in the ALCS, but then lost Games 4, 5, and 6 and were nine innings from becoming on the second team in baseball history to blow a 3-0 lead. But they avoid the ignominious company of the 2004 New York Yankees, and will now head to Dallas for the World Series.

They face the winner of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. tonight in Dallas. The Rays will be “home” team if the Braves win in Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 of the World Series, while the Dodgers hold the best record in baseball and will have the last at-bat advantage if they advance tomorrow night.

The Rays only other appearance in the World Series was in 2008, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.