[Yahoo Sports] The Astros’ past finally catches up to them, one game shy of a return to the World Series - Rookie Randy Arozarena hit his seventh home run of the postseason and his fourth of the series, Pete Fairbanks recorded the final four outs — the last two with the tying run in the batter’s box — and Mike Zunino homered and drove in two runs for the Rays, who will play in their second World Series. They lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, when they were still getting used to not being the Devil Rays. This was, first, their victory, four games and four days after they had taken that three-games-to-none lead against the Astros. This was their time to recognize in themselves the depth, cleverness and talent of an organization that operates confidently and efficiently in areas where others are sloppy. About their only significant free agent signing in recent memory is Morton, who left the Astros for a two-year, $30 million contract, won 16 games in 2019 and three — one against the New York Yankees and two against the Astros — in the 2020 postseason. His ERA in five playoff starts for the Rays is 0.70. On Saturday he allowed two singles, no runs, and handed the ball to the Rays’ bullpen vision of the final 10 outs with a three-run lead.
[ESPN] Relieved Tampa Bay Rays enjoy earning AL pennant in MLB’s strange, tough 2020 season - “The last three days were pretty agonizing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We definitely added to our stress levels. That’s a really good team over there. I would have rather gotten it done in Game 4 or 5 than in Game 7.” There might be more than 2,000 aeronautical miles between Petco Park and the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field, where this game would have taken place under normal circumstances, but that did little to diminish the manner in which they competed in these games, despite not playing a single game in front of fans all season. “I feel bad that fans haven’t been able to be at the parks,” said Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay’s starter who also won Game 7. “Our families haven’t been able to see us unless they’re in quarantine. My mom flew in from New Jersey, but I can only see her from 15 feet away. But the silver lining to this is, get to the postseason and it’s just not the same. But I’ve looked across at the dugout and I know the guys that we’re playing; they care, and they want to win.”
[USA Today] Tampa Bay Rays one of six MLB franchises who’ve never won a World Series - The Tampa Bay Rays have advanced to the World Series for just the second time in franchise history. And with their 4-2 victory in Game 7 against the Houston Astros to claim the 2020 American League pennant, the Rays have a chance to become the second consecutive franchise to win its first World Series title. They’ll look to follow in the footsteps of the Washington Nationals, who defeated the Astros in last year’s World Series for the only title in Nationals/Montreal Expos history. The Rays are currently one of six MLB franchises without a championship — a list they’d love to cut to five when they face off against either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Atlanta Braves.
[MLB.com] Can Braves bring relief to Atlanta sports fans? - Tonight, the Braves will face the Dodgers for the right to head to the World Series. It would be the Dodgers’ third World Series appearance in the last four years, but it would be the Braves’ first since 1999. That drought has happened despite 11 postseason appearances (including 2020) since 2001. The Atlanta Braves famously won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005, an achievement that becomes a little bit more remarkable the farther away you get from it. And yet in that whole time, they won just one World Series; the Marlins have never won the NL East … and they have two World Series titles.
[ESPN] Kenley Jansen shows the vintage form Dodgers ‘know and love’ in dominating Braves - After retiring the final batter with a 94 mph fastball on Friday night, and striking out the side, Kenley Jansen glared at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout with an intensity rarely seen from the personable right-hander. The meaning behind it, Jansen said, was basically, “Let’s go!” To the rest of the Dodgers, it represented something else: Kenley Jansen — the good Kenley Jansen — is back. Jansen recorded the final three outs of Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. This time the lead was by only two runs, half the cushion of his Friday outing, representing his first save since the Dodgers’ first postseason game 17 days ago. Jansen, who faced the bottom of the Braves’ order, was helped by a sliding catch from Joc Pederson to open the inning, then got routine fly outs from Nick Markakis and Pablo Sandoval. Six pitches, three outs to force a Game 7.
Around the League
[NY Daily News] This offseason will be a bloodbath for MLB players - There is a cold, uncertain winter a comin’ for baseball. No one is talking about it because they’re heaving a huge sigh of relief over making it through the pandemic-truncated 60-game season all the way to the World Series. But a brutal offseason is coming, and the players will bear the brunt of the pain. In the days since their latest postseason elimination there has been much discussion about the Yankees’ top offseason priority, the re-signing of DJ LeMahieu. Rest assured, they will, but it will be the only significant expenditure they make on a player in a winter where, like almost every other team in baseball, they will be otherwise looking to cut payroll. By not bringing back Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton, that’s about $52 million alone. Here’s the bottom line on what this season without fans has wrought on baseball: Every team in baseball has lost a minimum of $100 million — the larger market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Phillies, between $175-$200 million. Last week, the Phillies’ Team Marketing Report reported they lost $186.1 million, while the Yankees were probably closer to $200 million or more. The lower-payroll teams like the Rays and Marlins, accustomed to playing to three-quarters empty ballparks anyway, lost considerably less. But they will get hit with an additional whammy of losing out on their customary $50 million (in Tampa Bay’s case) to $70M (in Miami’s case) revenue sharing payments. Or as one MLB exec noted to me: “You can’t be paid revenue sharing from the other teams if there is no revenue.”
[ESPN] Miami Marlins parting with president Michael Hill - Miami Marlins executive Michael Hill’s 19-season tenure with the franchise has ended. Hill was president of baseball operations for the past six years and provided continuity after a 2017 change in ownership, but his contract expired and he will not be back next season, CEO Derek Jeter said Sunday. Hill joined the Marlins’ front office in 2002, and the next year they won the World Series. But this year’s 31-29 finish was their first above .500 since 2009, and they made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Hill helped steer the Marlins through a coronavirus outbreak that nearly derailed their season. The Marlins beat the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round of the playoffs before being eliminated by Atlanta and exceeded all outside expectations with a young, patchwork roster one year after losing 105 games. Hill was general manager for six seasons before becoming president of baseball operations. He worked for three years in the Jeter regime as the organization underwent heavy turnover.